I wish so badly that they had just been up front and name the movie Taken… Again!
As a precursor I confess that I committed the cardinal sin of looking at the Tomato Score for Taken 2 before actually watching it, and that the sheer awfulness of the cumulative reviews left my expectations fairly low for the movie before I even entered the theater. Normally this would be a boost to my opinion of a film because the lower I set my expectations, the easier it is for something to really surprise me in any positive way. Unfortunately, sometimes even the lowest of bars isn’t enough to grant movies a pass, and the result is the most heavily botched action sequel we’ve been given since Speed 2: Cruise Control. Between a horrible script, dubious acting and an overall lack of originality, Taken 2 takes a rare logical setup for a sequel and squanders it by giving the audience the same “been there, done that” feeling of this year’s similarly exploitative sequel The Hangover: Part II.
As I said above, the premise to Taken 2 actually makes sense. After “slaughtering” a great deal of an organized crime syndicate in the first installment, it makes sense that Brian Mills (Liam Neeson) would be the subject of the vengeance of those criminals’ friends and family. It also makes sense that Brian’s Wife Lenore (Famke Jannssen) and Daughter Maggie(Luc Besson Favorite, Maggie Grace) would be included in that vengeance. Therefore it’s no surprise to the audience when the Mills Family vacation to Istanbul doesn’t exactly go as smoothly as
anticipated as Brian and Lenore are Kidnapped by a gang of eastern European thugs, leaving Kim to take up Brian’s role from the previous film and rescue her parents. This flip-flop of the original film’s premise may sound fresh on paper, but on screen it plays out fairly similarly. Kim may be the one who isn’t “taken” in Taken 2, but everything she does is through following her father’s instructions until he regains his control of the action near about 60 minutes in. There isn’t much to give away in the “spoiler” sense here, but I will leave off by saying that the movie does indeed leave things somewhat desperately open for a sequel as the trailers would suggest.
Are you ready for this? Liam Neeson is 60 years old. Six-Zero. Admittedly Sylvester Stallone is 66, Arnold Schwarzenegger is 65, Bruce Willis is 57 and each of them continue to star in action movies, but that doesn’t make Neeson’s continued physicality any less impressive. Unfortunately, Brian Mills isn’t nearly as impressive in Taken 2as the actor portraying him. He can still beat up eastern European thugs without much difficulty, but without the firm direction and conviction of the previous film’s setup (nothing
here rivals the sheer badass level of his “special set of skills speach in Taken), but Brian feels like a much more shallow character this time around. Part of the reason for this is that his relationship with his daughter and ex-wife were considered to be just as interesting to the audience as his practical use of his CIA training, and this just isn’t the case. Far too much time in the film is spent on his relationships with Lenore and Kim, and those relationships are made up of Daytime Soap-worthy cheesiness.
I was a little more impressed with the film’s villain, Murad Krasniqi (Rade Serbedzija) as the grieving father of the man Brian unnecessarily left to die by electric shock in the first film. The choice to have Murad’s son be an example of someone Brian killed through anger instead of self-defence grants a small amount of reasonableness to Murad’s motivations, seeing as his son’s death did fall into a bit of a moral grey area in Taken. Brian’s justifications of the son’s death might be valid, but Murad’s position as a grieving father makes it more than understandable that he would shun reason and focus only on balancing the scales by killing his son’s murderer.
This is where the movie when from mediocre to awful within about five minutes of the opening credits. Every scene that involved Brian, Lenore or Kim talking to one another was nails on a chalkboard with how poorly the characters’ dialogues were written. If there’s one thing I can’t stand in a movie it’s cliche interactions between parents and teenagers, and Taken 2 is filled with them. Frankly, if you’re going to take the added steps to add in non-action elements to an action movie they need to feel necessary in at least some way, and I’m hard pressed to think of anything less essential to the plot of Taken 2 than whether or not Kim passes her driving test.
Things pick up a little bit when the action finally comes around, and it’s action where Luc Besson has always been able to save face. Between films like the first Taken, Lockout and the Transporter films, Besson’s strength has always been in quickly dispensing with plot formalities and getting down to the business of blowing up cars and beating up bad guys. Unfortunately, recent years have begun to suggest that action is about the only thing Besson can do anymore, and that the days of his masterpiece Leon: The Professional are far behind him. The strength of that film’s characters made it a shining example of the heights a traditional action film may reach, yet modern action movies seem to suggest an inverse relationship between character depth and adrenaline level. Unfortunately, until audiences start showing up in droves for the Hurt Locker‘s of Hollywood instead of the Taken 2‘s we can only expect to see more and more of the latter.
The Verdict: 4.5/10 Sub-Par
Taken 2 is a perfect example of what not to do in a sequel. A action good sequel, and they do certainly exist (Terminator 2, The Bourne Supremacy, The Dark Knight), needs to deliver the audience something it hasn’t already seen before in the original movie without loosing site of what made its predecessor great in the first place. The first Taken came out of nowhere and gained impressive financial and critical success with it’s driving sense of purpose and the strength of its main character. Everything Taken 2 does to set itself apart from the first film comes at the expense of one of those sources of appeal, yet none of that matters in the end when audiences continue to reward studios for this sort of creative laziness with box office numbers like we’re seeing from Taken 2. Oh well, any faith I have in humanity will vanish when 50 shades of Grey becomes a Box Office hit, so one extra crappy movie making money isn’t going to do much in comparison.
Here are some more reviews from my fellow bloggers:
Dan the Man Movie Reviews – 5.5/10
Fogs’ Movie Reviews – C-