Taken 2 – Bryan Mills (played by Liam Neeson) is a dad “with a particular set of skills” who, in the prequel film (2008), rescued his daughter from an Albanian human-trafficking syndicate, using the unconventional tactic of applying his experience as expert CIA operative in a merciless rampage across Europe.

In this year’s sequel, Bryan is still trying to get close to his daughter Kim (played by Maggie Grace), while working off-and-on as a high-profile personal security consultant. When he finds out that his ex-wife Lenore (played by the stunning Famke Janssen) is having a rough time at home with an estranged husband, Bryan invites Kim and Lenore to visit him in Istanbul after his next assignment for a few days vacation.

Meanwhile, in Albania, trafficking kingpin Murad Krasniqi (played by Rade Serbedzija) plots revenge against Bryan, and travels with his goons into Istanbul just in time to catch the family reuniting for their vacation. During one outing, Bryan and Lenore seem to be reigniting an old flame just as Murad’s goons barge in with orders to take Bryan alive. Needless to say, a series of kidnapping attempts against Bryan, Lenore, and even Kim ensues, while Bryan spends much of the movie performing his signature vicious rampage.

But you already knew that, didn’t you? Check out the rest of the review after the button…

Fans of the first movie will enjoy the laconic dialog and the brutality of Bryan as he breaks Albanian bones and points his pistol into the eye sockets of his adversaries. I myself was waiting to see more of this in Taken 2, although I definitely remember hooting aloud several more times during the original feature saying things like: “Goddam! Did you see that? He killed him with his ELBOW!”

Other reviews out there on the internets are making a big to-do about how Bryan is able to contact his daughter Kim to help bail him out during his first escape from the Albanian goons, who – honestly – generally appear in every scene as inept, distracted, or too bored to be bothered with avenging their brethren or even too bored to even be bothered to look back at who might have opened the gate behind them and is getting ready to strangle them until they are dead, dead, dead. I’m going to personally give Bryan a B- for judgement on that one. Not only does he have options (or rather, he SHOULD have options) other than bringing his daughter into the fight armed with a map and three grenades that she is instructed to detonate on the rooftops of Istanbul.

Plenty of suspension of disbelief is required to watch this film with a straight face. Those grenades are only the tip of the iceberg. The film generally suffers from plot holes, continuity gaps, and anomalies like Bryan’s unlimited ammo cheat code.

Any sequel is inevitably going to have to deal with comparisons. Sorry, folks, that’s just the deal. The bummer for me in this movie really was Bryan’s different approaches in handling the different kidnapping scenarios. In the first film, Bryan not only had to rampage through ascending echelons of kidnappers, but he also had to extract information along the way. This led him to be a little more intimidating and fearsome in the first film, whereas in the second film, it really is a lot of pistol-whipping and analysis stuff that can only really happen inside Bryan’s head. There’s no real scene to compare to the epic electrocution interrogation Bryan has in the first film, and that’s just too bad as Bryan loses a lot of desperation and emotion.

I will remark on one particular dimension of the film, which is kind of a Dad vs. Dad moment where Bryan explains why he had to do what he did to the Albanian kingpin Murad’s daughter-kidnapping son (remember that electrocution scene?). In the same scene, Murad explains why he must now have revenge against Bryan. It’s a very compelling and honest dialogue where both dads just lay it out there, no matter how absurd it sounds to rational people. And that’s really the thing, isn’t it? When you start talking about messing with a father’s children, it really isn’t a rational situation anymore, is it?

So Taken 2 is the #1 movie in theaters this week, and that’s good. It’s grossed about $50 million so it’s on track to be considered a successful movie, and definitely a successful sequel. If you enjoyed the first movie, you’ll like seeing Bryan do his thing all over again. Even if you didn’t catch the first movie (like my wife who I dragged along with me), it is still accessible and enjoyable. In fact, I think you might even like it more if you haven’t seen the prequel. I give you a 3.5 star review, which is half a star more than I came into this review with, but that was before I knew we could give half-increments in the rating scale, but this movie honestly deserves what I give it.

Hell, go see it. Truthfully, it’s probably going to be the best thing in the theater until the holidays.