The kidnap thriller “Taken” took Hollywood by surprise. Designed for easy translation to foreign markets, it was a domestic hit, too, and made an action hero out of melancholy, Lincoln-esque Liam Neeson.
Less surprising is that it spawned a sequel. Alas, “Taken 2” is a movie with no surprises at all, a streamlined chase flick that is running on the fumes from recycled fuel.
What fuels the franchise is that retired CIA agent Bryan Mills (Neeson) will do anything to protect his family — except stop them from traveling to dangerous places. Four years after daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) was snatched by human traffickers in Paris, Mills invites her and his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Jannsen) to join him at the end of a business trip to Turkey. The nature of Mills' business is barely mentioned, but we learn in the prologue that some angry Albanians have vowed to avenge the kinsmen he killed in the first episode.
While Kim plays matchmaker with her estranged parents, the couple are followed through the scenic splendor of Istanbul by bloodthirsty villains. We know they are villains because they are swarthy Muslims who drink ouzo, smoke hookahs and cheer during tiny-TV broadcasts of a sport that non-Americans call football.
The thugs kidnap the couple and predictably torture Lenore. Just as predictably, the heroic Mills says things like, “You can do what you want to me, but leave my wife alone!” But despite his MacGyver gadgets, Mills has to secretly phone his bikini-clad daughter at their luxury hotel and enlist her help — which entails tossing dad's emergency stash of grenades around the crowded streets of an historic city so Mills can use the echoes to compute her whereabouts. True Yankee ingenuity.
But eventually it comes down to brute force. “Taken 2” isn't in the same class as a “Bourne” or “Mission: Impossible” movie, but Mills gets to drive fast and furious before dispatching the henchmen and confronting a vengeful Albanian grandfather (Rade Serbedzija).
With a barrel to the bad guy's face, the American offers the foreigner a choice: to sharpen their knives for a sequel or to stop the cycle of violence once and for all.
If you dare to guess it's the latter, you'll be taken for a very unpleasant ride.
Two stars out of four • Rating PG-13 • Run time 1:31 • Content Intense sequences of action and violence