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'Taken 2' review: The year's funniest thriller

* (out of four)

In “Taken,” ex-spy Bryan (Liam Neeson) made single-handedly killing the Albanians who kidnapped his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) look easy. That should've been a clue to leave this one-man wrecking crew alone. No, Murad (Rade Serbedzija) doesn't care that his son was a kidnapper who ruined the lives of innocent young women. He demands revenge on the boy's killer, launching a roughly 30-man operation to capture Bryan, his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen), and Kim during their trip to Istanbul.

In some of many unintentionally hilarious moments in this infinitely stupid sequel, Murad spends his downtime doing absolutely nothing. Really. When he receives calls about the progress of the mission, he's just sitting in a chair in an empty room, as if writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen preferred to write as little as possible.

They never should have started. That would have spared us from a henchman needlessly exclaiming to his colleague, “I shot some guy,” after shooting some guy, or Bryan's quick series of commands to Lenore and Kim that no non-spy could ever remember and execute in a high-pressure setting. That includes ordering Kim to throw grenades in random places to help him gauge necessary locations, apparently because his method of memorizing sounds like boats and birds while hooded in a van clearly didn't pay off. When Kim asks where he is, Bryan doesn't say, “Three blocks away from birds.”

The first “Taken” worked as a B-movie about a dad who would do anything for his daughter—which is easier when you have the ass-kicking skills of 100 people. In “Taken 2” director Oliver Megaton (“Colombiana”) substitutes disposable action and characters that haven't learned anything from their past for the dangers of naive travel. (For some reason, we're also supposed to care if Kim passes her driver's test.) Kim misses dad's frantic calls because she's Skyping with her boyfriend (Luke Grimes of “Brothers and Sisters”). “Be casual, blend in,” Bryan orders Kim, who then looks totally casual as an American girl in a bikini top frantically running barefoot around an Istanbul hotel.

Dad promises her he'll stop these faceless baddies from bothering their family again. As if she forgot about all the guys her old man just shot, Kim asks, “What are you going to do?” This should be the last time we see her learn the answer.
 

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

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