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Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012 06:25 pm

Neeson caters to his audience in Taken 2

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Having stumbled upon a new career path with Taken, Liam Neeson has become the action star of the moment, parlaying the success of that film – which grossed a quarter of a billion dollars worldwide – into a series of uneven action movies (The Grey – good, Unknown – not so much) that have elevated his international box office appeal. It was only inevitable that Neeson would return to the scene of his good fortune with the imaginatively titled Taken 2, a popcorn movie that’s short on logic but long on thrills.

Once more, the actor is former CIA agent Bryan Mills who’s intent on turning over a new leaf both professionally and personally. Set to take a business trip to Istanbul, he invites his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) and daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) to join him there for a mini-vacation. Bad move, as fate – and some convenient screenwriting from Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen – has Mills crossing paths with Murad Krasniqi (Rade Serbedzija), the father of one of his victims from the first film. With revenge on his mind, Mills and Lenore are soon – you guessed it – taken, and before you know it, mayhem ensues.

Much like its hero, the film is calculating and efficient. It gives the audience exactly what it wants with very few frills. Much of the action – and there’s surprisingly little of it – is done in a competent manner though director Megaton does himself a disservice by employing a rapid editing scheme that ends up muddying the action rather than clarifying it. Still, the highlight is a chase sequence that finds Kim, who has failed her driving test twice, behind the wheel, as Bryan sets out to dispatch the bad guys who are on their tail. Though not played for as many laughs as it might have been, these scenes are slickly done and make you sit up and take notice, especially at the chase’s end.

To be sure, the main draw here is Neeson. He fills the screen like very few actors of his generation can. The fact that he can convincingly play both a man of action as well as an overly-protective father helps this thin material go further than it should. He plays it all with such conviction amidst such ridiculous mayhem that he’s skirting the line of self-parody in this, only the second entry in the series. Upon saying, “Listen to me carefully,” - which is quickly becoming the franchise’s catch phrase – for the second time during the film, it was met with appreciative laughter. Of course, this is to be expected as, despite the vicious brand of violence on display here, no one is taking these films seriously, including Neeson himself. He’s here for a paycheck and audiences come for the thrills. Here’s betting that all parties will go home happy after Taken 2 and will be eager for more, though I’m not sure Mills has any more family members who can be abducted.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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