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Taken 2

Liam Neeson returns as the man “with a particular set of skills” in Taken 2, but apparently one of those skills is not making a decent sequel.

This follow-up to the taut 2008 globetrotting hostage thriller is really more of a remake than a sequel, but since the original was a box-office success, the Hollywood notion that cash trumps creativity wins out again in this case.

This exercise in by-the-numbers filmmaking managed to lure back Neeson for another go-round, presumably with the promise of a blank check and a free trip to Europe.

In the first film, Bryan (Neeson) is a retired CIA operative who tracks down the kidnappers of his teenage daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace) during a vacation in Europe. This time, father and daughter visit Turkey with Bryan’s ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen), when the father (Rade Serbedzija) of a kidnapper Bryan killed in the first film turns the tables. He takes Bryan and Lenore hostage, causing Kim to escape become the rescuer, with the help of her father’s unique knowledge.

French director Olivier Megaton (Colombiana) is in familiar territory with this sort of high-octane chase picture, and also seems to relish scripts that make little sense, such as this one from action-film guru Luc Besson and veteran sequel scribe Robert Mark Kamen (The Karate Kid).

The screenwriters seem content to rehash the basic structure of their first film, apparently thinking that by merely switching roles between victim and hero for about a third of the running time, they could fool moviegoers into thinking they were watching something fresh and original.

In spite of itself, Taken 2 has some exciting action sequences, whether fights or chases, mostly on crowded urban streets. The pace is fast, but this is strictly formula from the get-go. The story includes plenty of logical gaps, stock villains of the bearded eastern European variety, and grinds toward the most predictable of conclusions.

Neeson’s character remains the most compelling part of both Taken films, and he still plays the role with enough conviction (complete with plenty of growling) to almost make this mess worth watching. However, there’s nothing here that wasn’t already accomplished better the first time around.

 

Rated PG-13, 91 minutes.

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