Liam Neeson returns in this tired third instalment of the actioner franchise
You know the drill by now. If you're an evildoer, Liam Neeson’s grizzled ex-CIA operative will find you and he will kill you. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ‘I’ll be back’ battle cry, this catchphrase helped turn Neeson into an ageing action hero back in 2008 when the original Taken made its bow. Back then it was novel seeing the creaky-kneed actor get medieval on some bad guy asses after his daughter was kidnapped. But seven years on, and with three episodes of The Expendables leaving the geri-action flick well and truly spent, Taken 3 feels as dozy as a pensioner in the midday sun.
This time the setting is Los Angeles rather than Europe. The film begins with Neeson’s Bryan Mills arriving at his apartment to find his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) dead and himself framed for the crime. Evading the police's clutches, he sets out to prove his innocence – despite being tracked by Forest Whitaker’s smarter-than-average detective (we know he’s sharp because he carries a chess piece around with him, in one of the film’s more ridiculous symbolic features).
Like the first two instalments, Taken 3 is co-scripted and produced by Luc Besson, a filmmaker who has never let logic get in the way of excitement. It's helmed by Olivier Megaton, a journeyman action director whose credits include Taken 2 and Transporter 3. Naturally, he delivers when it comes to carnage – the fight scenes are efficient, the freeway pile-ups impressive. But the characters, especially Mills’ daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) and her stepfather Stuart (Dougray Scott), are almost an afterthought.
Some scenes are particularly laughable – notably anything involving the Russian gangsters led by Sam Spruell (far less menacing here than he was in London to Brighton), who have set Mills up. While the budget has clearly been spent on stunts and Neeson’s salary, everything else about Taken 3 feels bargain basement. Retirement seems the best option for this flagging franchise.
General release from Thu 8 Jan.