‘TAKEN 2’ is what you’d expect in that it’s a duplicate of the first hit film, only with the stakes raised.

What’s surprising isn’t how unsurprising it is, but how lifeless and inert. The scenes of action lack any measure of visceral impact, the staginess of the fight scenes are countered by a constant barrage of cuts and jerky camera moves, and there’s an oddly distancing lack of urgency in Liam Neeson’s performance.

The original TAKEN was efficient and got the job done, but it was a film you could easily imagine as a direct-to-DVD title starring Steven Seagal. Whatever its faults, Neeson’s middle-aged warrior intensity was the revelation of the first film, and the key to the basic satisfactions it delivered. But we’ve seen this Liam Neeson many times since the unexpected success of that film, and it’s already starting to feel tired.  He’s our modern day fill-in for the Charles Bronson vigilante.

The film does have one snazzy (though improbable) sequence featuring a makeshift GPS tracking device consisting of a map, a marker, and a pair of hand grenades.  But the performances are largely spiritless, the direction is without invention, and even the uninspired music cues are off-putting (they lazily use two tracks directly from the DRIVE soundtrack).

Even so, the movie will do stellar business, at least on opening weekend. But I doubt most audiences will feel particularly taken by it.