Liam Neeson's Taken 2 has defended its US box-office title with a narrow win over Ben Affleck's Argo.
Sunday studio estimates put 20th Century Fox's sequel to action flick Taken in first place with 22.5 million dollars in its second weekend. Taken 2 raised its domestic total to 86.8 million dollars.
Ben's Iranian hostage thriller Argo opened in second-place with 20.1 million dollars.
Ethan Hawke's new film Sinister, about a true-crime writer caught up in supernatural horror, debuted in third place with 18.3 million dollars.
Here Comes The Boom, with Kevin James as a teacher who becomes a mixed martial arts sensation, started weakly stateside in fifth position with 12 million dollars.
The weekend's other new wide release, crime comedy Seven Psychopaths, also opened to small crowds to finish ninth. 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 Liam as an action hero, Taken 2 was dinged by critics who called it a replay of the original. The sequel has Liam'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."
Argo may prove the opposite, using its great reviews and Academy Awards buzz to settle in for a long stay at the box office. Ben 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 US embassy takeover by disguising them as members of a fake movie crew.