Liam Neeson is close to agreeing a $20 million deal to star in Taken 3, according to reports.
Taken 2, released last year, received a critical drubbing, but the Oscar-nominated actor is said to be close to a deal for a second sequel that will make him one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood.
According to Deadline, Neeson was a “reluctant participant” in Taken 2 but was nevertheless persuaded by a $15 million payment.
In the Taken franchise, Neeson stars as former CIA operative Bryan Mills. The first film, released in 2009, sees his daughter kidnapped in Paris and sold into sex slavery, while in the sequel Mills himself becomes the kidnap victim.
Taken nabbed $226 million at the box office on a relatively small budget of $25 million. Its sequel cost $45 million but reaped $376 million for 20 Century Fox.
But reviewers who had shown enthusiasm for the original turned their backs on the sequel.
“Foreigners bad, Americans good, box office busy,” said the New York Times last year.
Empire noted: “Neeson is still the redeeming feature. He commits to lines such as, ‘When a dog has a bone, the last thing you should try to do is take it from him,’ as if it’s Chekhov.”
The Independent's Anthony Quinn wrote: "It's as preposterous as the first movie, with Neeson's humourless hardnut exhibiting the muscle and reflexes of a man half his age (he's 60)."
Luc Besson, the writer responsible for both films, was initially sceptical about a second sequel.
“The story’s very good,” he told Den of Geek about Taken 2. “But we won't have a third one. We’ll have a second one, because it’s almost a continuation of the first movie. You could even take one and two together, in a way, and that works.
“But I don’t think we’ll go like Transporter, for example, with two, three and four. We’ll stop at the two.”