The groans at the press screenings were rather loud, with several critics complaining that Taken 2 is too much like the first kidnap and rescue thriller Taken released three years ago.
But sit with the audiences and watch the new film, and see the way they root for the good guys and you know Taken 2, often preposterous and at times sluggish, is still explosive entertainment.
It has grossed about $140 million worldwide in six days (on its way to some $300 million in theatres and surely a new lease of life on DVD). It is the No 1 film in many countries including South Korea, America and the United Kingdom.
Among a handful of critics who know why the new film has its own appeal is Kirsten Acuna of Business Insider.
'The point of seeing Taken 2 was never to see a brilliant sequel, rather, it was to see Neeson do what he does best: use his particular set of skills to off a bunch of men in the most creative ways possible,' she mused. 'He brings this same "set of skills" to the table in every film: Batman Begins, Star Wars, The Grey, and audiences are okay with that.'
Put together several 60-year-old-actors and make a fast paced movie, and you can expect a hit such as Expendables 2 which has grossed an impressive $300 million worldwide. But there are just one or two veteran actors such as Harrison Ford who can occasionally open a film big on their own.
And now there's 60-year-old Liam Neeson, enjoying the most successful film of his career in Taken 2. His eyes speak of the horror and sadness he is facing even as he flexes his muscles and proves to be an avatar of James Bond.
One reason the film is resonating with audiences is that despite its violence and bodycount, the briskly paced Taken 2 is also a family drama. The loopholes
In the previous film, Taken, Neeson, playing Brian Mills, an ex-CIA operative, had to fight thugs in Paris who had kidnapped his teenage daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) and were seeking to turn her into a sex slave. The father becomes a one man destruction crew and saves his daughter.
In the new film, the tables are turned. And Neeson (along with his ex-wife and mother of his daughter, played by Famke Janssen) has to be saved by the daughter.
In Taken 2, the bond between Mills and Kim is growing and he has become a bigger part of her life. He's also closer to his ex-wife Lenore whose second marriage has hit the rocks. He invites her and Kim to join him in Istanbul where he is finishing an assignment.
But the Albanian gangsters have not forgotten Mills.
Not only had he slaughtered many gang members who had gone after his daughter, but also their young leader. Now, the young man's father (a menacing Rade Serbedzija) seeks revenge. And the fact that Mills is in a neighbouring country makes the Albanians more confident of succeeding in their mission.
The plan is to kill Mill's ex-wife and daughter while Mills watches, before killing Mills. (Hence the taglines for the film, 'First they took his daughter. Now they're coming for him'.)
The scenes in which a captive Neeson instructs his daughter on the saving mission are improbable but they are also among the film's most interesting moments, and the audiences root for the young heroine.
The film was directed by Olivier Megaton and was produced and co-written by Luc Besson, the French master of thrillers, for about $60 million, far less than what a typical Hollywood action film costs. Co-producer Fox is expected to green light the third film in the series soon.