While American filmmakers undervalue the screen and life experience brought by aging actors, British filmmakers have long favored seasoned thespians. Thanks to the vision of Parisian-born writer-producer Luc Besson, in 2008, the American film "Taken" transformed then 56-year-old Liam Neeson into an action star.
Neeson played former CIA operative Bryan Mills, a father capable of doing whatever was required to rescue his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) from an Albanian sex-slave trafficking ring. By film's end, Mills had killed 35 of its members.
Since "Taken" grossed $225 million worldwide, it was only a matter of time until a sequel was made. "Taken 2" heralds the continuation of a franchise, arriving four years later, but a mere 18 months later in movie years. Neeson reprises his role as the wrong man to cross. Still in love with his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen), Mills takes advantage of her separation from hubby No. 2, when inviting Lenore, and their daughter Kim, to picturesque Istanbul, following his gig running security for a Sheikh.
Now 60, Neeson remains persuasive as a hyper-aware operative possessing the know-how to either evade or bring down a ring of baddies. His particular skill set is once again needed when Mills and Lenore are captured by survivors of the revenge-seeking Albanian gang. Using a secret, second cell-phone, Mills calls his daughter, and gives her step-by-step instructions that enable Mills to turn the tables on his captors.
As in the first chapter, much of what makes the film fun is the clever use of ordinary items, such as a cell-phone and a shoelace, to defeat his opponents. Although Mills' abilities are extraordinary, his desire to protect his family is ordinary and is ably personalized by Neeson, who overcomes many of the deficits in the film's generic script.
Famke Janssen and Maggie Grace are serviceable, as is the workmanlike direction of Olivier Megaton. Starring alongside Neeson, is Istanbul, a fascinating blend of winding narrow streets and rooftop sidewalks - ideal settings for the film's heart-pounding chase sequences.