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Taken 3

Year: 2015
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Oliver Megaton
Producer: Luc Besson
Writer: Luc Besson/Robert Mark Kamen/Liam Neeson
Cast: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Forest Whitaker, Dougray Scott, Famke Janssen

How are the Taken films just like those in The Hangover franchise? Look at the evidence. It's the third film in a surprise hit franchise. The second film, with nowhere else to really go thanks to the constraints of the essential plot, was exactly the same story as the first one, just a bit bigger and louder.

And after audiences (and especially critics) spoke out loud and clear against such an approach, the third films attempt to further the story beyond the title-as-plot conceit, the end result being that The Hangover Part III wasn't about a hangover and nobody is taken in Taken 3, except maybe the last of Liam Neeson's credibility.

Instead, we get the 957th innocent-man-on-the-run-to-clear-his-name story to grace screens since George Méliès first picked up a camera. The premise itself is so, so tired and director Oliver Megaton doesn't do it any favours with the woeful performances, lacklustre script and editing that looks like a first pass at the raw footage.

Special forces/guy with a still-indistinct set of skills Bryan Mills (Neeson) is getting on with his life when someone kills his former wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) in his apartment, but not before she's told him how she's not getting along with her new husband Stuart (Dougray Scott) and can't stop thinking about hopping back in the sack with Bryan.

The cops burst in right as Brian discovers the body, making it look like he did it in an obvious set-up. So after a quick whip round the room to knock everyone out, Bryan goes on the lam to find out who killed his wife, protect his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) from in hiding and get himself in the clear with dogged detective Dotzler (Forest Whitaker, not really doing anything except collecting his check at the end) on his trail.

From there the movie is a series of car chases and fight scenes with too many cuts and too much shaky-cam that makes the action feel very inauthentic. Maybe Neeson is feeling his age, director Megaton deciding to use camera tricks to make things seem a bit more dangerous.

It's all cobbled together with the flimsiest of stories involving a fearsome Russian mobster who barely shows up and a confidence scheme that hooks the supposedly brilliant Mills with surprising ease – if you've watched an action thriller in the last few decades you'll smell a rat long before he does.

A couple of throwaway subplots like the daughter worrying about the results of a pregnancy test occasionally show up to plug gaps when things go quiet, but even if it was a good action movie (which it's not), why should we care?

Neeson doesn't even play an indestructible hulk like Denzel Washington has in his last few action movies – even that would be a more interesting character than the wishy-washy Mills. Instead of making him appear more human, his flaws just makes it feel like a less self-aware version of The Expendables where nobody realises how past it the hero really is.

But with the first two films making six or eight times their budgets back at the box office, neither 20th Century Fox nor the creative brains trust behind the series (Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen) have to care much about cinematic quality at this point.

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