Second time around, Neeson and 'Taken 2' fall flat

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Photo - This image released by 20th Century Fox shows Liam Neeson in a scene from "Taken 2." (AP Photo/20th Century Fox, Magali Bragard)
This image released by 20th Century Fox shows Liam Neeson in a scene from "Taken 2." (AP Photo/20th Century Fox, Magali Bragard)
Entertainment,Movies,Brian Hughes

"Taken 2" is a serious contender for worst movie of 2012.

It's a problem when brevity is the highlight of the theater-going experience. But the creators of this cash grab should be credited in one respect: By the rhythmic nature of its awfulness, you can't help but laugh at the absurdity.

Some will inevitably award this sequel the "so-bad-it's good" label. But that's giving it too much credit. Rather than winking at the audience and embracing its B-movie roots, the silliness is clearly a byproduct of lazy filmmaking.

On screen
'Taken 2'
1/2 out of 4 stars
Stars: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen and Rade Sherbedgia
Director: Olivier Megaton
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sensuality
Running Time: 91 minutes

Not that "Taken" was cinematic gold, but even its detractors would concede it had moments of unbridled fun. This latest chapter plays like a "Saturday Night Live" parody of the original in which our super agent (Liam Neeson) merely is a video game character operating with cheat codes -- nothing is ever truly at stake.

The plot is familiar: Family gets taken from the former secret agent and he must take them back. Well, Bryan Mills (Neeson) gets taken too (by kinfolk of the Albanian slave pushers he killed last time around) leaving his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) to play hero.

Not to worry, though, the ragtag group of criminals somehow fails to detect a secret cell phone in Mills' possession, allowing him to give her the most precise details imaginable for saving the former agent and his wife (Famke Janssen) during a family vacation gone terribly wrong in Turkey.

Produced and co-written by action icon Luc Besson, this seemed like an ideal vehicle for Neeson, a late-blooming action star. Whatever weight he brings to the material is overshadowed by the hackneyed direction from Olivier Megaton ("Transporter 3), intent on giving us repetitive, headache-inducing fits of blurry violence.

Sure, Neeson unveils a healthy share of one-liners, among the most glorious: "When a dog has a bone the last thing you want to do is take it from him."

Perhaps the most memorable line is a victim of unfortunate timing, considering the recent round of anti-American violence in the Middle East: "I want you to go to the U.S. embassy," he tells his daughter. "You'll be safe there."

Not to beat the sequel-bashing drum, but absent the financial motivations, no clear reason emerges for making this movie -- or why Neeson attached his name to such an inferior product.

Take a pass.

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Brian Hughes

White House Correspondent
The Washington Examiner