Movie review: Taken trilogy ends in anti-climax

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TAKEN 3 (PG13)

109 minutes/Opens tomorrow/**1/2

The story: When Lenore (Famke Janssen) is found dead on her bed, her ex-husband, former CIA agent Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), appears to be her killer. On the run from the cops, he has to hunt down the real culprits while preventing his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) from being the next victim.

Even the screenwriters have figured out by now that it would be a stretch if anyone were to get kidnapped again here.

After Kim gets snatched in the first film, and then her mother in the second instalment, it would be pretty ridiculous, not to mention uninspired, if it were to happen again for the third time.

Of course, fans of the series follow it not for its creative genius. All they want to see is Liam Neeson kicking a** and now that he is no longer required to rescue anyone against a tight deadline, audiences suddenly have too much time on their hands to see just how many loopholes there are in the narrative.

After getting away with killing so many people in the first two movies - he brutally terminated anyone who stood in his way - it is bizarre that he would now become the police's most wanted man over the alleged murder of a single person, his ex-wife.

Having the slick Bryan Mills elude the bumbling American cops here is nowhere nearly as exciting as him viciously going after Albanian mobsters in the first two movies.

Quick pacing and non-stop action propelled these films, even if they were criticised by some for their racist depiction of Eastern Europeans.

While Mills still gets to do what he does best here - coldly twisting people's necks and shooting them in the head, among other things - the action scenes are often bogged down by too many cheesy soap opera family moments slotted in between.

A whole chunk of the film is dedicated to how he goes to a store to buy Kim a birthday present, which, in this case, is a giant stuffed panda.

The awkward father-daughter bonding moments might have been sweet in another family drama; here, they serve only to slow things down to a treacly pace.

Perhaps, the physically taxing role is getting a little too much for the 62-year-old Neeson. He often looks weary, as if he could not wait to get everything over and done with.

It must have hit him midway through filming that as much money as this film is going to rake in, it is also utterly pointless and ends the trilogy on an anticlimactic note.