Liam Neeson has proved of late how entertainingly potent the one-tough-middle-aged-SOB-against-impossible-odds movie can be. But there's not a lot to be — ahem — "Taken" by, however, in the lo-fi imitation thriller "The Outsider," which stars British slab Craig Fairbrass as Lex, a private security mercenary stationed in Afghanistan who hotfoots it to Los Angeles to investigate the supposed death of his estranged daughter.
With all signs pointing to a weaselly, well-protected high-tech firm magnate (James Caan), Lex enlists help on his infiltrative quest from a world-weary detective (Jason Patric) and one of his daughter's acquaintances (Shannon Elizabeth).
It's all pretty routine, and it takes a while to get its adrenaline pumping with Lex facing off against the villain's goons. In fact, there's so little narrative drive, the suspense music is ratcheted up even when nothing is happening. Plus, you'd swear that one-third of the movie were establishing shots of Los Angeles.
Fairbrass has a certain rugged sincerity and appealing sense of barely coiled rage, but it's mostly wasted in a screenplay (by director Brian A. Miller) of gaping plot holes, wan excitement and dumb action cliches.
"The Outsider." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes. At AMC Burbank Town Center 8.