There was a time when a sense of shame was attached to making a same-again sequel which simply rehashed the improbable situation of the original. But that was before Macaulay Culkin was left Home Alone twice and Jack Bauer had eight 24 hours to foil a terrorist plot.

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Now it seems perfectly reasonable that the follow-up to a film in which Liam Neeson hunted down and killed every member of a gang of Albanian white slave traders who kidnapped his daughter in Paris would feature his whole family being taken by the bereaved friends and family of that gang in Istanbul.

Frantic

So I wouldn’t call Taken 2 lazy film-making but I would call it perfunctory. The action is done in fast cutting close-up and the vibe is gritty unrealism. It’s like a Bourne film where you can (mostly) see what is happening. It’s fast and frantic but without excitement.

As someone who hates films where the hero’s family are kidnapped, part of me appreciated the film’s cosy reassurance that absolutely no harm would come to them; while at the same time resenting the total absence of suspense.

The appeal of the Takens isn’t hard to fathom. In these uncertain times western audiences are hungry for depictions of sweaty, swarthy foreigners being wiped out by a single westerner through greater intelligence and a more proficient application of violence.

The choice of Istanbul is surely significant. It is, as Neeson explains, where East meets West and a crossing point for every war between these two worlds.

Albania is not the most overt of Muslim countries (indeed the opening scenes are of what looked to me to be a Christian burial).

The film though makes the Albanian baddies seem very much at home in the bazaars and kasbahs, while our heroes are adrift without a friendly or trustworthy face to turn to.

Not that I’m judging – I am not too high and mighty to get worked up by some simple-minded cathartic vengeance. But in Taken 2 it is all a bit too easy and one-sided. So much so it has a real problem dragging things out to an acceptable running time. It is like a fixed fight where the designated winner has to carry the loser for a few rounds to make it look respectable.

TAKEN 2 (15)

Director: Oliver Megaton

Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Rade Sherbedgia and Luke Grimes

Length: 95 mins

**

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