Friday, October 5, 2012

"Taken 2" Unremarkable Retread

Liam Neeson Can’t Save “Taken 2”

By Skip Sheffield

Liam Neeson is one big, bad dude. He has a deep voice, stands 6-foot-5 and his face has the battered look of the champion amateur boxer he once was.

Neeson has a sensitive side too, and a lot of soul. When his young wife Natasha Richardson died after a skiing accident, he gained additional gravitas.

All this serves Neeson well in “Taken 2,” an otherwise unremarkable sequel to the 2009 sleeper hit.

“Taken 2” is again written (with Robert Mark Kamen) by French thriller specialist Luc Besson (“La Femme Nikita”) and again it co-stars Famki Janssen as Neeson’s estranged wife Lenore and Maggie Grace as his daughter Kim.

Kim is playing matchmaker to try and get her parents back together, in Istanbul, of all places. In the first “Taken” Kim was abducted in Paris and was going to be sold into sex slavery. Not over her dad’s dead body.

In the sequel the father of the abduction ringleader is back with a gang of Albanian Muslim hoodlums to wreak vengeance on ex-CIA agent Bryan Mills (Neeson) and his wife and daughter.

It seems the Russians and Red Chinese have been pushed aside as villains in favor of swarthy, nasty Muslims. Murad, the papa bad guy, is played by Croatian actor Rade Serbedzia. The setting is Istanbul, Turkey where the Mills’ surprise family reunion turns into a nightmare when Bryan and Lenore are abducted and roughed up and Kim narrowly escapes with angry Muslims on her trail.

Director Olivier Megaton (“Colombiana”) keeps the tension pretty taught, though the plot is basically one miraculous escape after another as Neeson one by one throttles, garrotes, pummels and blows away bad guys. This is just one step away from the parody of excess that was Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill.”

So if it’s action, bloodbath and swarthy villains you want, “Taken 2” is your beverage of choice. Neeson, 60, is a widower with two young sons living in New York. He must need the pay check.

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