Global earnings for Taken 2 amounted to $376m - out-grossing the first film - despite a cool reception from the critics. Don't be surprised if the third in the franchise will similarly surpass its predecessor commercially, even if the thing is frankly running out of steam.

Liam Neeson returns as general weapons and gadgets handyman Bryan Mills - a Houdini for our times in short - and the result is passably entertaining. But somehow the constant violence and the - let's face it - ludicrously unfeasible set-ups tend to swamp the human story that reverberated strongly through the first Taken.

That film played powerfully, and adroitly, with the viewer's sympathies, and the murky world of sex trafficking was a good place to posit a very sinister - and, indeed, unfortunately all too credible - modern tale.

Taken 3 sees Mills and his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) renewing the kind of friendship that promises a second round of intimacy, despite the fact that Lenore has remarried Stuart (Dougray Scott). Mills, somewhat brazenly, gives her a key to his apartment before receiving a visit from Stuart asking him not to see Lenore until they have worked through some difficulties. Mills agrees, although the thing doesn't sit right with him.

However, domestic drama soon gives way to more life-or-death situations as Mills is framed (warning: there are a lot of spoilers in the trailer) and is forced to go on the run.

The rest of the action is essentially Mills' bid to track down the real perpetrators - the business of clearing his name is almost incidental, so determined is he to exact revenge on his own terms.

A number of Albanians were the baddies in the first and second Taken movies; this time 'round it's a gang of nasty Russians, one of whom sports a very bad hair-cut indeed, although he is in fact played by one Sam Spruell.

Forest Whitaker is convincing as a wily police inspector trying to keep up with the bizarre fall-out from on-screen events. A truck goes amok and cars are totalled on the freeway in the middle of a car chase. A school is evacuated in an emergency situation - all just so that Mills can make his point rather demonstratively that he is not the guilty one.

Somehow, the cartoon violence, the exploding cars, the rather clichéd Russian baddies, and the gimmicky technology tend to highlight the absence of the kind of appealing human story that distinguished the first Taken. Pity. 

Paddy Kehoe