May 17, 2012 at 11:30 AM EDT

In 2008’s Taken, Liam Neeson’s turn as a retired special-ops agent trying to rescue his kidnapped daughter from sex traffickers in Paris did a lot more than scare teens away from ever wanting to visit Europe.

It was also a surprise blockbuster, collecting $226 million worldwide and reestablishing the Schindler’s List Oscar-nominee as a major action star.

In Taken 2 (out Oct. 5), Neeson returns as Bryan Mills, the CIA agent with “a particular set of skills” for hunting down bad guys, but this time his daughter (Maggie Grace) has to help rescue him when associates of the villains he killed the first time around decide to get their revenge.

As you will see from EW’s three first look photos, Neeson’s character is not taking his own kidnapping lying down.

Director Olivier Megaton (Colombiana, Transporter 3) takes over filmmaking duties from the original movie’s Pierre Morell, but screenwriters Robert Mark Kamen and Luc Besson (who also produced) are both back. And Famke Janssen, who played Neeson’s ex-wife, is also returning for the second go-round.

Below, Neeson speaks with EW about what’s changing and what’s staying the same for the sequel.

EW: A dangerous father, his independent-minded daughter, his frustrated ex-wife… those are the key elements, but this isn’t going to be a domestic drama, I’m guessing.

LIAM NEESON: [Laughs] No, it’s not a very quiet, intimate, little European story, that’s for sure.

Anyone who has seen the original knows [SPOILER ALERT] there’s a happy ending. So where is Bryan Mills now, and how is his relationship with his ex and his daughter?

I’ve taken a job over in Istanbul looking after a sheik who is there, and afterward I discover that my wife’s going through a very bad time with her new husband. So I suggest she and my daughter come over for a few days and hang out with me in this amazing city. And then… [laughs] all this s—t happens, of course.

How much time has passed since he saved her?

The action is supposed to take place about a year or a year and a half after the first story. It’s a very clever sequel with the usual thrills and spills, but the ante is upped quite a bit in this one.

NEXT PHOTO: Neeson makes sure sparks will fly.

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