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Liam Neeson must fight bad guys again as his family gets in new trouble in 'Taken 2.'
20th CENTURY FOX
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BY ROGER MOORE
McCLATCHY-TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE
In nature, lightning occasionally strikes the same place twice. In the movies, it almost never happens.
So as good as Liam Neeson was in "Taken," as good as he often is in "Taken 2," the sequel--about the family of all those Albanians he killed in "Taken" taking their revenge--is an often silly movie where the strain to stay credulous shows.
Neeson's retired secret agent, Bryan Mills, is being hunted by the few Albanians left after he massacred most of the Albanian mob for kidnapping his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) the last time around. So what does he do? He invites Kim and ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) with him on a trip to Istanbul.
What could go wrong?
He doesn't know the Muslim mobster (Rade Serbedzija) has sworn he will have "justice." But Bryan is onto them in a flash. Next thing you know, he's giving his wife the lecture he gave Kim in France: "I need you to FOCUS."
They're both nabbed. He warns his daughter by phone. She too has to "FOCUS." (Again.)
Then, tied up and hooded, they're whisked somewhere as Brian counts seconds between turns, sounds he hears, working out where they might be. MacGyver has nothing on this dude.
The villain smacks his lips and makes speeches. In English. The few remaining Albanian mobsters all speak English. "Your death weeel not be queeeck," he hisses.
Neither weeel yours, pal.
Producer-co-writer Luc Besson gave us "The Professional," a movie about a hitman savant, a "cleaner" (Jean Reno) whose arrival prompted bad guys to say, "Somebody's coming. Somebody SERIOUS."
Nobody's more serious than Neeson in this part. The hulking ex-boxer lumbers through Istanbul's narrow streets, shouts at his driver's daughter when they wind up in a stolen cab, takes a beating and delivers one.
But Besson, who lets Olivier Megaton direct these films, has run out of gags, ways to put characters into and out of jeopardy. "Taken 2" defies logic and credibility as it puts its characters in harm's way and refuses to take the logical way out.
And hilariously, our villain hears explosions, shots fired, and always says the same thing: "Go und zee what happened."
Besson's Islamophobia is an amusing subtext. Here his characters are in perhaps the most beautiful and most secular city in the Middle East, and he never loses an opportunity to let us hear Muslim calls to prayer, suggest a conspiracy between Muslim mobsters and Muslim cops, or to have Bryan or his family shoot, smash, steal or set off grenades in scenic Istanbul.
It's as propulsive and kinetic as the original "Taken," all chases and shootouts and brawls and narrow escapes. But this sequel's shortcomings make us feel like the ones who've been taken.
STARRING: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Rade Serbedzija, D.B. Sweeney
CREDITS: Directed by Olivier Megaton, written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen. A Twentieth Century Fox release. Running time: 1:30.
RATED: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sensuality
THEATERS: Aquia 10,