Seven years have passed since Bryan Mills uttered the immortal threats down the phone to the men who had just kidnapped his daughter. Liam Neeson returns in the lead role, and with a damp squib of a sequel under its belt, the ‘Taken’ franchise grinds to an utterly underwhelming finale.

Back on home turf following their European adventures, Bryan and his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) are now on good terms. Their daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) is in a happy relationship as well and all seems to be going well for the Mills clan. There isn’t a sign of any lecherous, violent henchmen anywhere, and its more traditional family matters that concern Bryan. As he and his ex get close, an unexpected visit from her current partner Stuart (Dougray Scott) acts as a warning that the former partners maybe getting too friendly. Backing off, Bryan gets a call from Lenore and when he returns to see her, he realises he has been framed for her murder. The police are on their way, and his ex-wife is dead in his bedroom. Bryan does what he does best… He runs.

It’s a concept that has now spawned a sub-genre of its own. “Older” actor, not particularly well-known for action, turns vigilante and unleashes all manner of violence on unsuspecting Eastern European bad guys. Back then, Neeson cut an intimidating figure. Brutish yet quick on his feet, he managed to convey real power with every punch he threw. Maybe its age, or maybe its the tamer film certificate, but it all feels very unbelievable now. Mills lumbers rather than runs now and his kicks look like they drain all the energy out of the actor.

The supporting cast are equally uninspired. Scott still has the haunted look of a man who missed out on playing Wolverine in the first X-Men film because shooting on Mission Impossible 3 overran. Instead he gets to ham it up as an obviously duplicitous co-star, who is no match for an ancient Neeson. Forest Whitaker has little to work with as the cop trailing Mills, randomly pointing out the obvious and falling for schemes that would look mediocre on The Bill. Grace still annoys and Janssen is still underused. At least she has finally escaped this franchise and quite early on in this film.

Aiming for a softer rating has really hurt this series. You realise this when trying to make sense of some of the action on screen. All the punches are pulled and it’s left to vehicular carnage to try and add some sense of danger to proceedings. Having moved the story to America, it’s unfortunate that the first set of bad guys end up being another batch from across the Atlantic. Worse still, these villains have nothing to do with the previous films. The only vaguely clever point the otherwise atrocious 2012 sequel made, implying “The sins of the father…” overtones is totally undermined. You could understand spurning such an obvious open goal if there was something better in the offing, but there definitely isn’t. This plot isn’t even serviceable, it’s just downright lame.

Director Olivier Megaton does a decent job with some of the set-pieces, the stand-out being an exciting plane vs Porsche crash, but this is too little too late. Aiming to be The Fugitive, Taken 3 is instead an epic misfire that will have you running from it given the first opportunity you get.