When it comes to "Taken 2," America's top critics have grown tired of Liam Neeson's vigilante justice.
The reviews are in, and they're as savage as one of Neeson's brutal-beatdowns, with many labeling the sequel outlandish or formulaic — critic-speak for "it stinks." As the smackdowns piled up, "Taken 2" only managed to eke out a woeful 14 percent rotten rating on the critics aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
The film, which finds Neeson's ex-CIA agent/dad on a blood-spattered pan-Eurasian journey to rescue his family members from foreign baddies, opens Friday.
In TheWrap, Alonso Duralde did not spare the filmmakers' feelings, likening the movie and its herky-jerk action sequences to "cinematic waterboarding."
"After scoring a hit with the implausible, ridiculous, jingoistic and undeniably entertaining “Taken,” screenwriters Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen have decided to cross the line into sheer stupidity with 'Taken 2,' barfing out a script that defies logic and common sense and handing over the directorial reins to the colossally untalented Olivier Megaton," Duralde writes.
Joining him in throwing tomatoes was Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune, who also faulted Megaton's frenzied direction of car-chases and fight sequences. Phillips further lamented that it was not a worthy entry in Neeson's later-life series of badass roles.
"Revenge is a dish best served cold, as some Albanian dramatist once said, but 'Taken 2' isn't good-cold, as in steely and purposeful; it's cold as in 'lost the scent,'" Phillips writes. "After the solid satisfactions of the recent Neeson vehicles 'Unknown' (Neeson versus his own memory loss) and 'The Grey' (Neeson versus wolves), this hacky smackdown between Neeson and a third-rate director can't compete."
Writing in the Washington Post, Ann Hornaday was liberal with the opprobrium, branding the follow-up a "clunky" exercise.
"By the time 'Taken 2' stages a second, ludicrously conceived car chase, which leads to an equally absurd tableau of macho posturing in a Turkish bath, the entire enterprise feels as false and tidy as the tasteful drop of blood that adorns Bryan’s chin," Hornaday writes. "When Neeson visited 'The Daily Show' earlier this week, Jon Stewart eagerly asked if a 'Taken 3' was in the works. The actor visibly recoiled, his hand slashing his throat in a 'that’s enough' gesture, suggesting that the star is painfully aware that sometimes lightning should stay in the bottle."
In The Village Voice, Nick Pinkerton sounds as though he would have preferred to being captured and strung up by "Taken 2"s' Albanian villains to sitting through the action flick for a second time.
"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," Pinkerton writes.
One of the few who seemed willing to join Neeson on another revenge-soaked ride was Roger Ebert. Writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, Ebert praised the cast and the action film's sense of professionalism even as he noted "Taken 2" suffered from hard-to-swallow plot twists.
"The cast is uniformly capable and dead serious, and if you're buying what [screenwriter and producer] Luc Besson is selling, he's not short-changing you," Ebert wrote.
Or you could just go see "Pitch Perfect."