One of my favorite Facebook posts shows Liam Neeson with the following caption:
"He trained Batman and Obi-Wan Kenobi. He is both Zeus and Aslan, making him a god in at least two religions. He also punches wolves. Why would you try to kidnap his family?"
And why would you put him in a flavorless movie like "Taken 2"?
This image released by 20th Century Fox shows Liam Neeson in a scene from “Taken 2.”
In 2008, after a long and successful career, Neeson - then 55 - suddenly became an action star when "Taken" netted $227 million worldwide -- nearly 10 times its modest budget.
Propelled by relentless energy and a strong moral backbone ("You stole my daughter!"), "Taken" was brainless but thoroughly entertaining.
"Taken 2" is merely brainless.
In this tepid sequel, Neeson's Bryan Mills and his ex-wife are kidnapped by relatives of the men he killed the first time around; here his daughter (Maggie Grace) is on the outside and must help.
The movie takes too long to get going, with early scenes marred by corny writing. In place of "Taken's" effective tension between Mills and ex-wife, here we have tired-out super-dad antics over the daughter's boyfriend - and no attempt to grab your interest with an early action scene as in the first film.
In fact, "Taken 2" consistently and foolishly assumes audience interest, making virtually no effort to ratchet up the tension.
If anything, the filmmakers decided to ratchet it down, which is not a bad idea in itself - if we could understand what was going on.
Though "Taken 2" is much slower than its predecessor, several plot points are nonetheless unclear - especially Neeson's late retracing of the journey he took when blindfolded; I couldn't figure out how he wound up in a different place than he'd escaped from the first time.
Worse, the carefully choreographed fight scenes - with excellent stunt work by Neeson - are consistently frustrating due to the jiggling, jumpy camerawork I've railed against so often in these reviews.
Obviously, no one is listening.
The dialog is decent in spots but laughable elsewhere, including this classic from one villain, explaining the murder of an innocent bystander: "I just shot some guy."
There is one effective car chase with the daughter at the wheel, but its jolting excitement is dampened by the fact that writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen - who penned the first film - could think of no better commentary from Grace and Neeson than, respectively, "Dad!" and "Don't stop; keep going!" - over and over and over again.
Since much is made of Grace's earlier failure to pass her driver's test, this scene desperately needed a comic line at the end to relieve tension.
But as so often in this film, the writers just didn't feel it was worth the effort.
Let's hope there isn't a "Taken 3."