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Movie Review: “Taken 2″

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Four years after “Taken” became a surprise hit, which was followed by numerous ripoffs, we have the proper sequel. It’s virtually the same movie as the first and once again, it’s simultaneously ridiculously entertaining and just plain ridiculous.

The first film had 50-something retired CIA man Bryan (Liam Neeson) traveling to Paris to rescue his kidnapped daughter (Maggie Grace) and beating up a few dozen sex traffickers and other criminals in the process. The sequel moves the action to Istanbul, as Neeson is on vacation with his daughter and ex-wife (Famke Janssen), but they soon find themselves in the crosshairs of Murad Hoxha (Rade Šerbedžija), the revenge-minded father of the lead baddie from the first movie.

“Taken 2,” directed by the wonderfully named Frenchman Olivier Megaton, mostly matches the first film beat-for-beat. It moves the action to a different city and mostly drops the sex-trafficking angle, but other than that there’s not a whole lot new. However, the film finds room for some inventiveness and creativity. There’s a nifty trick involving grenades, as well as a hilarious setpiece in which two men in the middle of a fistfight stumble upon a makeshift boxing ring and instantly jump on top of it.

There are also a whole bunch of nifty car chases, and Istanbul, not exactly a frequent action-movie destination, is used and photographed expertly.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t extend to most of the fight scenes, which feature shaky-cam footage as bad as anything in recent memory.

Of course, there are other aspects that are just plain laughable. The bad guys, in the tradition of James Bond adversaries, are seemingly the world’s stupidest kidnappers. When they grab Neeson, this pretty large group sees it fit to leave this super-badass unguarded for long stretches, and don’t even bother to take away his cell phone.

The film also pauses, near the end, to question the value of revenge itself, which is sort of incongruous with everything before and after. And a sequence in which the wall of a U.S. embassy in a Muslim country is breached likely has a very different connotation now than it did when the movie was filmed.

Then there’s the matter of the daughter being introduced taking her driving test- which is kind of strange, considering  the actress playing her is almost 30 years old. Seriously- Maggie Grace was an adult on the first season of Lost, which was eight years ago. Not to mention- shouldn’t Neeson’s character be famous after the first movie, as the guy who went to Paris, killed 50 bad guys, set off a bunch of bombs, and rescued his daughter? You’d think everyone he meets would recognize him.

“Taken 2,” much like its predecessor, is no masterpiece of action cinema. But it’s enjoyably nutty, and if you liked the first film, you’ll probably enjoy this one too.

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