The one surefire punchline in Taken 2 is unintended, a bitter laugh. Ex-CIA operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), delivering his trademark crisis-control cell phone coaching to his much-imperiled daughter (Maggie Grace), commands: “I want you to go to the U.S. embassy. You’ll be safe there.” Wrapped before recent embassy sieges spurred by the trailer for Innocence of Muslims—film is a battleground!—this sequel to 2008’s sleeper-hit programmer, which had Neeson eliminating a passel of Albanian white slavers, takes the reunited Mills family on vacation to Istanbul and the heart of the caliphate. Here, Mills will lecture on the city’s role in the history of East-West conflict, which continues unabated as the families of the first film’s casualties (led by mourning father Rade Serbedzija) lay in wait, planning to kill daughter, Dad, and reconciled ex-wife Famke Janssen. This cross-cultural family feud leads Mills to compose an airtight, war-without-end response to the dove logic that War on Terror intervention only creates more terrorists: “Then I will kill them, too.” It’s all in the family at co-writer/producer Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp, with Olivier Megaton (Colombiana) replacing Taken director Pierre Morel, working in headlong house style. While fetishizing the precise effectiveness of its hero’s “very particular set of skills”—the bullet-exchange ratio between Islamo thugs and Mills must be 50:1—Taken 2 rarely embodies the values of concision and focus that it extols, and any breathing room from the hurtling narrative illogic only allows the audience opportunity to notice slips in Mills’s father-knows-best infallibility. Nick Pinkerton
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