Liam Neeson's "Taken 2" has defended its box-office title with a narrow win over Ben Affleck's "Argo."
Sunday studio estimates put the action sequel "Taken 2" at No. 1 with $22.5 million in its second weekend. "Taken 2" raised its domestic total to $86.8 million.
Affleck's "Argo," an Iranian hostage thriller opened in second-place with $20.1 million.
Ethan Hawke's "Sinister," about a true-crime writer caught up in supernatural horror, debuted at No. 3 with $18.3 million.
"Here Comes the Boom," with Kevin James as a teacher who becomes a mixed martial arts sensation, started weakly at No. 5 with $12 million.
The weekend's other new wide release, crime comedy "Seven Psychopaths," also opened to small crowds, taking in $4.3 million to finish at No. 9. The movie's ensemble cast includes Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken and Woody Harrelson.
The sequel to "Taken," the hit that established dramatic star Neeson as an action hero, "Taken 2" waswho called it a replay of the original. The sequel has Neeson's ex-CIA tough guy up against a gang of Albanian goons out for revenge for their kin that he killed in the first movie.
"It kind of proves that reviews do not matter," said Paul Dergarabedian, an analyst for box-office tracker Hollywood.com. "Audiences just continue to eat this up. They just love Liam Neeson in this role."
The first "Taken" soared at the box office when it was released in 2008, raking in $49.5 million during its opening weekend. The sequel debuted 54.6 percent lower, as noted by Entertainment Weekly.
"Argo" may prove the opposite, using its great reviews and Academy Awards buzz to settle in for a long stay at the box office. Affleck directed and starred in the real-life story about a CIA operative who concocts a plan to rescue six Americans hiding in Tehran after the 1979 U.S. embassy takeover by disguising them as members of a fake movie crew.