Belfast Telegraph

Taken 3 review: This will find you, it won't thrill you

Even Ballymena man Liam Neeson's hard-boiled character looks as if he's had enough of this tired franchise, says Andrew Johnston.

Taken 3 should have been the filmmakers' for the taking. With a mega-budget, a dedicated fan base and star Liam Neeson back on board, there is no reason why this "threequel" shouldn't have been a crazily entertaining action movie. That it's little more than a perfunctory thriller is a major disappointment.

In 2008's first film in the surprise hit franchise, criminals "took" former special forces operative Bryan Mills' (Neeson) daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace, below). In the 2012 sequel, it was his wife, Lennie (Famke Janssen). For part three, the only thing anyone's taking is the mickey.

The script - another from the production line of Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen - seems to have been written in five minutes on the back of a napkin. It's some half-baked guff about a life insurance scam that involves framing Mills for a key character's murder, and the ex-CIA man subsequently going on the run in an effort to clear his name. Even ignoring that it's a laboured rip-off of The Fugitive, Taken 3 has the most uninspiring plot since The Phantom Menace.

Yet in the hands of a competent director, this could still have been a decent popcorn flick. Sadly, Olivier Megaton (Transporter 3, Colombiana, Taken 2) has proved time and again that he isn't up to the job.

At best, Megaton is a poor man's Michael Bay; at worst, he's a pound shop McG. Though, even the lowliest action hack should be able to mount a car chase or a fistfight where you can actually see what's going on. Megaton's shooting style conspires with dreadful editing and a soundtrack that could have been piped in from a Steven Seagal DVD to suck every bit of suspense out of the set-pieces.

What's worse is that the violence has been trimmed to get a 12A certificate, to the point where Taken 3's action scenes are as toothless as an episode of The A-Team. Bullets enter bodies without leaving a mark, the hand-to-hand combat appears to have been shot from between the cracks in the cameraman's fingers, and the actors playing the Russian bad guys fall over and die with all the credibility of kids in their first school play.

Even the setting - a humdrum Los Angeles suburb - is a drag next to the gritty European locales of the first two movies.

As for the main man himself, for the first time, Neeson is starting to show his age. At times even his familiar imposing presence betrays a hint of his 62 years.

The Northern Ireland-born star has enjoyed a remarkable career reinvention as an ageing action god, but even he now looks bored by the by-the-numbers plots and hackneyed dialogue. Taken 3 musters one memorable quip towards the end, but by that stage, you'll be too bored to appreciate it.

Elsewhere, Forest Whitaker plays essentially the same character he did in 2013's Arnold Schwarzenegger dud The Last Stand, and indeed that Tommy Lee Jones did in The Fugitive. However, there's no cat-and-mouse spark between Whitaker's daftly monikered Inspector Franck Dotzler and Neeson's Mills. It's more mouse and cheese.

The movie's tag line, "It ends here", is another cop out, with Taken 4 repeatedly and lazily signposted throughout. A fourth entry in the lucrative series looks likely, but, as with this third instalment, you should probably take along a pillow.

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