Take Liam Neeson's family members once, shame on you. Take Liam Neeson's family members twice, shame on him (but you'll still end up in a world of hurt).
Taken 2, sequel to the 2008 sleeper hit, doesn't worry too much about improbability in devising a way to bring Bryan Mills (Neeson) back into the action. In the first film, Mills punched and shot his way through Paris in order to retrieve his kidnapped daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). The followup jumps ahead two years, Kim still on edge from the experience and Mills just hoping to move past it all. To wash away bad memories, Kim and Mill's ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) join the badass-for-hire on a work trip to Istanbul where everyone can finally relax. That is, until someone gets taken.
In Taken 2, director Olivier Megaton (Transporter 3, Colombiana) sticks to the formula that helped transform Neeson into an aged action star, laying out obvious hurdles for his MacGuyver-esque hero and letting fast-paced editing and Mills' fists do the heavy lifting. There's an added layer of character that feels like a tease: Mills and Kim are trying to act like a normal father/daughter handed the horrific experience of learning to drive as their through-line conflict and Megaton finds humorous ways to touch upon the struggle. In one sequence, Kim drives a stolen taxi cab away from gun-toting pursuers as Mills dictates directions from the passenger side. The action movie equivalent of ''10 and 2!'' is shouted, and all hell breaks loose in the moment of familial genius. But that's about it for Taken 2's innovation. More of the same is the goal here and the film delivers.
The only issue with straight up repeating Mills antics' from the first movie is that his new adversaries relatives of the people he previously offed are old and boring and easily defeated. Seeing schlubby Neeson slice, dice, and electrocute the private parts of men half his age was exciting. Seeing him do the same to senior citizens isn't. But Neeson is such a powerful onscreen force, even Taken 2's slowest moments have a bit of a spark. He makes the nonsensical into pure Shakespeare; in hokey scenes where Mills pals around with his best buds, Neeson drops lines that are laughable (''Oh, can't we just talk about basketball!) yet he owns them. We're chuckling with his awareness that Taken 2 is beyond silly.
Hollywood.com rated this film 2 1/2 stars.