‘Taken 3’ movie review — 1.5 stars

Edward Douglas: “The only thing getting taken is your money.”

There are about ten thousand puns I could make here in considering “Taken 3,” the inevitable and merciful conclusion to the action series that turned an Oscar-nominated actor into the world’s biggest action star.

Several colleagues have already laid claim to the best ones, though. (Richard Roeper: “A hundred and twelve minutes of my life got ‘Taken.'”; Occasional amNewYork contributor Edward Douglas: “The only thing getting taken is your money.” etc.)

So I’ll dispense with the witticisms and simply state the obvious: the movie stinks. It doesn’t stink in a clever or interesting way. It’s not even so bad that it’s funny, though it semi attempts some humor with a weird bagel motif. Mostly, the experience resembles a long, slow ride on a creaking subway without anything to distract you from the boredom.

Liam Neeson is a terrific actor. He’s as solid and dependable of a screen presence now as he was in movies like “Schindler’s List,” “Rob Roy” and “Kinsey.” Even in his journey through B and C-level action schlock of the past seven or so years, he’s nearly always applied the same commitment to the characters and the world they inhabit as he once did for prestige projects.

But even the star seems completely done with Bryan Mills, the man with a special set of skills who has saved his daughter (Maggie Grace) and his wife (Famke Janssen) and must now save himself after being framed for murder. It’s “The Fugitive” without the dramatic action set pieces, strong character development and intelligent plotting.

There’s nothing especially incompetent about director Olivier Megaton’s effort, except for a horrifically jumbled chase scene, but there’s no juice, no heart and, most of all, no point. The movie goes through the action picture motions with such scientific precision that it might as well have been scripted by a computer.

Neeson knows it. Forest Whitaker, playing the stock detective on Mills’ trail, knows it. So do holdovers such as Grace and Janssen and newcomer Dougray Scott, who must really wish he’d gotten to play Wolverine after all.

The movie came away with a healthy opening weekend despite the presence of so many better movies, including multiple Oscar contenders. It’d be a moment of despair for our culture if it weren’t so predictable. Anyone considering a trip to the multiplex for “Taken 3” should consider this: Strip away the title and the attendant association with a hit franchise and this movie would barely warrant a theatrical release at all. It’s that ordinary.

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