Taken 2

Liam Neeson provides for one of the few real gruff everyman action heroes but “Taken 2,” unlike the first “Taken,” is more of the Neeson that I want to see less of, namely the “Clash of the Titans-Battleship” Neeson who’s in it for the paycheck.

Neeson reprises his role as ex-CIA agent Brian Mills, who after the business in Paris from the first film can now add helicopter-parenting his teenage daughter (Maggie Grace, one of the least convincing teenagers ever) to his particular set of skills. He invites both her and his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) on a trip with him to Istanbul where striking up the old romantic fires are on the agenda, though from the wooden dialogue that passes between Neeson and Janssen you can tell even writing-producing partners Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen were disinterested by the project. We’re here because the Albanians are pissed off that Mills killed their buddies in the first film and they want revenge. We’re here because a sequel to “Taken” had to be filmed.

This time it’s Brian and his wife who are “taken” and the biggest thrill of this series is his resourcefulness, managing to not only escape but also figure out his own location by having his daughter drop grenades. That’s about where the coolness factor ends, however. So much of this movie features Brian’s one-on-one wrestling with villains–mindless, unobservant thugs whom the fast-thinking Brian will quickly dispatch, doubtless– led by Murad (Rade Šerbedžija). He lost his son in the previous film and appears to have no other attack strategy than repeating past actions and hoping for different results.

It also doesn’t help “Taken 2” that director Olivier Megaton’s car chases and shoot-outs take on a predictable and lifeless quality. Neeson basically walks through this, but he’s not the only one. I know it’s a sequel but c’me on, show us a little bit more fire in the belly.

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