“Taken 2” hit theaters on Friday, and reviews of the film are decidedly mixed. Many critics are praising Liam Neeson’s performance as a ruthless assassin who is determined to protect his family, but that seems to be one of the film’s few strong points. Some are accusing the film of being a virtual remake of the initial “Taken,” while others find it trivial and anti-climactic.
Bryan (Liam Neeson), his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen), and daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) travel to Istanbul for vacation. Their plans are soon disrupted when Lenore and Kim are kidnapped by the father (Rade Serbedzija) of one of the sex traffickers Bryan killed while rescuing his daughter a few years earlier.
As it turns out, he plans to kill Bryan’s wife and daughter while he watches. High-speed cases, brutal fight sequences and impassioned showdowns follow.
Gabe Torro of Indie Wire praises Neeson but believes that he may be past his prime when it comes to action movies. He also gives the film a poor grade of D-.
“Neeson, to his credit, never waves in his dedication to his craft, which is why people seem to forget his resume is littered with more B movies than the prestige pictures with which he was once associated,” says Watson. “His skin weathered, his height suddenly giving him a slightly hunchbacked curve, his smile as pained as ever, Neeson is a natural at this grimacing protector role.”
Christopher Watson of ABC gives the film a scathing review, awarding it one-and-a-half out of five stars.
“Even so, plot holes in a mindless action film can be forgiven if the film’s entertaining, but ‘Taken 2’ is barely that,” says Watson. “While the presentation is slick and the cast does exactly what they’re asked, there’s more entertainment value, and logic, in an episode of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.”
The Hollywood Reporter’s Bernard Besserglik is far less harsh and makes it clear that fans of the first film will enjoy the sequel.
“Neeson is utterly convincing as the anger-fueled but soft-spoken action hero, the personification of the regular guy pushed to the limit in defense of his family, and it's hard to see the ‘Taken’ franchise succeeding without him. There's a touch of vigilante advocacy in the movie that will displease some, with Neeson as a more gentlemanly version of the Charles Bronson of the ‘Death Wish’ series, but clearly there's still a market for such fantasies. Moviegoers who liked ‘Taken’ and want more of the same will get precisely that.”
Edward Douglas of ComingSoon.net says that “Taken 2” is an obvious attempt to capitalize on the first film’s success but notes that it has enough thrilling sequencing to make for an appealing action flick.
“There isn't a lot of new ground being broken in what ends up being a perfectly respectable action sequel and little more. It may not appease every fan's desire for a sequel as good as the original, but it also has enough solid action thrills to not feel like a completely offensive money grab. Even the parts that get ridiculous only work because of what Liam Neeson brings to the mix.”
Alex Beattie of Metro calls the film “predictable” and “clichéd.”
“Given that 2008 revenge thriller ‘Taken’ delivered unexpected box-office success on a decidedly meager budget, it was only a matter of time before a sequel materialized.
“Unfortunately, ‘Taken 2’ adheres to the laws of diminishing returns,” he says.
Despite the lukewarm reception, it’s unlikely that action fans will skip the film. With only smaller films like “Wuthering Heights” and “The Oranges” to compete with, “Taken 2” will likely repeat the box office success of its predecessor, which according to Box Office Mojo earned an impressive $145 million domestically. As MTV points out, "goodwill for the original and its star will propel the sequel financially."