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'Taken 3' is short on Liam Neeson beatings, taking

Taken 3

Did you know "Taken 3" star Liam Neeson once played the title role in a film mountDaniel McFadden

‘Taken 3’
Director: Olivier Megaton
Stars:
Liam Neeson, Forest Whitaker
Rating: PG-13
2 (out of 5) Globes

No one gets taken in “Taken 3.” We’re not being glib; the lack of taking in a movie about taking betrays the overall laziness of a series that, in its third episode, can’t even remember what it’s about. Eurotrash film god Luc Besson — who once, about 10,000 films ago, swore he would only make 10 films — is a pretty busy megalomaniac. So it’s understandable that he accidentally confused his franchise in which the guy from “Nell” beats up scary, Otherized Algerian human traffickers with one of his other purely generic “old man shoots and punches stuff” one-offs, like the sleepy Kevin Costner-led “3 Days to Kill.”

It’s also understandable that they can’t all be “Space Jail” — or whatever that one is called where a transcdentally sarcastic Guy Pearce shoots his way out of a jail that is in space. (It’s called “Lockout” — we think.) The original “Taken” is no one’s idea of a good classic; casually racist, brutish, filled with scenes of Liam Neeson hitting goon after goon — actually, it’s totally passable, if hardly defensible, fun. But “2” was a quickie, knucklescraping cash-in to a hit that could barely fill its own 90 minutes. And “3” is the kind of thing you give to Gary Busey, not the Oscar-nominated star of “The Grey” (a masterpiece).

Where “2” was a protracted setup followed by one long, dumb action scene, “3” takes forever for any sustained ownage from its AARP-aged star. Here, former Special Ops and current creepy hyper-parent Bryan Mills is framed for the murder of his wife (Famke Janssen). The film charts him trying to clear his name, eluding the police (led by another overqualified, actual Oscar winner, Forest Whitaker, who is trying) while hunting down the real killer, which may be the slug (Dougray Scott) who married his wife or movies’ new old go-to baddies: the Russians! Their chief baddie has a bowl cut that makes him look like Jim Carrey in the “Dumb and Dumber” films, only with slightly more finger tattoos.

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That last bit is as crazy as “Taken 3” gets, which is tragically disappointing. Besson cinema is among the weirdest, and there’s nothing here approaching the insanity of “2”’s, as a friend calls it, “grenade cartography” scene. (There is a scene, though, where Mills, um, drives down an elevator shaft.) It’s a drab, dull, short-on-bashed-heads mystery — closer to the more somber (and underrated) “A Walk Among the Tombstones,” only noticeably stupid and helmed by the least of the Besson stable go-tos.

Director Olivier Megaton (“Transporter 3,” “Taken 2”) likes quick, nonsensical edits between hack attempts at Paul Greengrass shakycam, cutting so fast that you can be sure the 62-year-old asskicker was kicking it in his trailer during the action scenes. No less than three times does it look like Mills is either about to be captured or is blown up real good — only for it to be revealed that he escaped at the last second, for reasons not only unexplained but outright impossible. No one’s even trying here. “3” claims to be the final in a trilogy, but there’s no closure, and as with “2,” it cuts to end credits practically mid-syllable. If it indeed “ends here” then good; that frees Neeson up for more with superior auteur Jaume Collet-Serra (“Non-Stop,” the forthcoming “Run All Night,” out in April) and, who knows, maybe like a Sandra Bullock rom-com?

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

 
 
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