Imagine a fat, sweet Brinks armored truck backing up into Liam Neeson’s driveway and dumping a fortune. That’s the only logical explanation, let alone motivation, for Taken 3, the newest, most bottom-of-the-barrel installment of the action franchise written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, directed by Olivier Megaton. Unlike the first and second Takens, nobody gets “taken” this time around except the audience. Neeson’s luckless retired CIA operative Bryan Mills makes a routine bagel run and returns home to find he’s been framed by skeevy Russians for the nasty murder of his former, unhappily remarried wife (Famke Janssen) with whom he been recklessly flirting.

The classic wrong-man scenario sends a bored-looking Neeson on a lazy run from the clueless LAPD, headed by Chief Forest Whitaker who somehow seems completely oblivious that the murder just might have something to do with the victim’s current estranged spouse (Dougray Scott, stranded), an arms dealer with a more than cozy relationship to the Russkies. If you guessed that Mills’ daughter (Maggie Grace) has something to do with it and is in trouble yet again, well, right you are.

Most of the witless, uninspired, direct-to-video-style running time is frittered away on dull action sequences like the hero being chased through a storm drain, being chased by a car through the desert, and punching various interchangeable Slavic bad guys. None of these scenes register, let alone hang together. In fact, for all the sense they make, for the little they relate to each other, they might as well be patched together from a half dozen other bargain-bin action flicks.

Sure, it’s always fun to see sad-eyed Neeson play surly, sour, and macho as he makes idiots of the cops, struts away from a crashed burning car completely unruffled, and beats baddies to a pulp. But the character who was so full of hugely enjoyable rage in the first Taken has been deadened and thoroughly dulled-out. Neeson’s agents need to get him un-Taken pronto and keep him that way. *