Whereas the surprisingly popular thriller Taken began with a suspenseful, nightmarish scenario—ex–CIA operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) was forced to act when his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), was snatched by sex traffickers—this sequel doesn’t bother with such old-fashioned fripperies as plot or intrigue. The relatives of the jabbering, interchangeable ethnic baddies that our hero bumped off in the first film now want revenge. They follow Mills to Istanbul. They try to kill him. They fail. More violence occurs. The end.
While much of the blame must fall to scriptwriters Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen—a sequence involving a bag of grenades and a map of Istanbul will spark nothing but gales of derisive laughter—the real culprit is director Olivier Megaton (Transporter 3). The action sequences feel like experiments in punishing an audience: a central car chase seems entirely composed of close-ups of smashing glass, spinning tires and sweaty hands grappling with gearshifts; a climactic punch-up in a Turkish bath quickly becomes as interesting as watching prepubescents play video games. We moviegoers may have become jaded about studios bilking our affection for quick bucks, but Taken 2 might be a new low: It’s a cynical, contemptuous attempt to squeeze the pockets of anyone who’s appreciated Neeson’s recent growly action-hero turns or who enjoyed the original film. Do not give its makers the satisfaction.