Taken 2 led the US box office with $50m (€38.5m) over opening weekend — double the haul for Neeson’s Taken, which took in $24.7m in its US debut.
The film, which began rolling out overseas a weekend earlier, added $55m more in about 50 international markets to raise its worldwide total to $117m.
Taken went on to become a $145m smash for Neeson, who became an unlikely action hero in his 50s.
In Taken 2, Neeson returns as a retired CIA agent using his expert espionage and killing skills to take on a gang of thugs out for revenge against him and his family.
“He gives hope to aging men,” said Paul Dergarabedian, an analyst for box-office tracker Hollywood.com. “He’s done the reverse of most actors, where you do the action stuff when you’re younger then do the more introspective work when you’re older. He’s sort of turned it around. When he’s 80, he’ll probably be kicking even more butt.”
While the first movie got respectable reviews, Taken 2 was panned by critics as a replay of the original. Audiences rarely care what critics say, though.
“Most people go to the movies for a certain dose of escapism,” said Chris Aronson, head of distribution for 20th Century Fox.
“It doesn’t have to be high art. It doesn’t have to be serious and contemplative. They go to the movies to be entertained, and my gosh, that’s what this movie does.”