This review could get me into trouble – a lot of trouble:  my wife LOVED “Taken”, LOVED the slightly dodgier “Taken 2″ and even LOVED “Taken 2.5:  he flies!” (a.k.a. last year’s “Non-Stop” vehicle for Neeson).  It was a given (if not a taken – LOL) that she was going to LOVE “Taken 3”.  

Liam Neeson returns to the role of Bryan Mills, a government operative with a “particular set of skills”, who gets framed for the murder of one of his nearest and dearest – – I don’t do spoilers, but the trailer neatly does:  thanks a bunch trailer! 

The Mills' family lawn was being bloody ruined by moles
The Mills’ family lawn was being bloody ruined by moles

Knowing his innocence, and not taking any s**t from anyone, Mills goes on the run to get to the bottom of who framed him and make them pay.  Hindering Mills more than helping him is police chief Franck Dotzler (Forest Whitaker) who is not only dogged in his pursuit of Mills as the key suspect but also extremely smart, trying to piece together the complex three-way relationship between Mills, his ex-wife Lenore (Bond-girl Famke Jansson) and her current husband Stuart (MI-2’s Dougray Scott).  Staying just one step ahead of the pursuing cops, Bryan’s focus rapidly turns to his daughter Kim Bauer – oh, sorry, wrong franchise – Kim Mills (Maggie Grace) and keeping her safe from the bad guys.  

Dougray Scott and Forest Whitaker
Dougray Scott and Forest Whitaker

Taken 2 was an energetic roller-coaster of a thriller also directed by Olivier Megaton (note: not his name at birth!) and to give Taken 3 a bit of credit parts of this film – following a painfully slow start with a lot of wordy exposition – live up to popcorn-munching past glories.  Some of the lines – especially those of the whip-smart Dotzler – are entertaining. And, in particular, Neeson does a very amusing variant of his famous ‘telephone answering message’ at the denouement of the film.  Apart from a damp squib of a final scene (probably hastily written as they were in the pub) the script by the same Taken team of Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen is passable.

I will hunt it, I will find it and I will wash the damned contact lens
I will hunt it, I will find it and I will wash the damned contact lens

In general though, this film is all over the place.  

Editing is of the frenetic Bourne variety but not to the same standard:  a specific and horrible example is an early car chase which is almost incoherent in the way it is staged and cut together.  And whilst a lot of the staged violence in the first two films was over-the-top escapism, some of the action in this film makes no logical sense whatsoever:  I could perhaps believe that body used as a shield might stop a handgun bullet – but a high powered sub-machine gun?  Please! 

To top this off, two separate incidents with Mills in exploding cars simply defy any possible suspension of disbelief:  this was more like Neeson in a film remake of the “indestructible” Captain Scarlett TV series than a supposedly realistic film.

To Mills, there is no such thing as a closed flight
To Mills, there is no such thing as a closed flight

This may be a personal view, but in particular I have a long-standing loathing of the movie trait of bumping off a key character at the start of a sequel after you, as the viewer, have invested the emotional energy in the previous film rooting for them to survive.  (Alien 3 is probably the most heinous example of this crime, with the first-reel death of the little girl ‘Newt’).  Adding a final-reel tragic twist (as in Skyfall, or The Amazing Spiderman 2) is fine in my book.  But this particular type of cheap storytelling trick just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

So go and see Taken 3 if you are happy to park your brain at the door and buy a bumper box of popcorn, but this is far from a classic and is a particularly stark coming down to movie-earth for me two days after watching the brilliant “Whiplash”.

This leaves me with just one important decision:  flowers, chocolates or a spa treatment to appease the wife?

Fad Rating:  FFf.