Stars: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen
I don’t know who you are, but I’m letting you know Taken 2 is no Taken. The original had a particular set of skills: gritty realism, inventive fights, an action movie pared down to the bone. The sequel is just clichéd and bloated.
Taken 2 picks up not long after the first, with Bryan (Liam Neeson) still dealing with his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) and still being over protective with his little princess (Maggie Grace) and her driving lessons. Bryan’s actions saving his daughter soon come back to haunt him. A father of one of the men he killed tracks him and his family down in Istanbul. Soon enough Bryan and his ex-wife are taken and away we go.
After watching Taken again I was amped for a second helping of Liam Nesson badassery. Here’s an Oscar nominated drama dude suddenly breaking bones, electrocuting human traffickers, and lending his gravelly voice to some awesomely quotable phone calls.
Plus the premise for this sequel was great. All the henchmen dispatched in these types of movies actually have families (see the scene below). So having them come looking for revenge was believable. But the rest, sadly, was just so ploddingly straightforward.
Where the idea for Taken 2 probably came from:
Producer and co-writer Luc Besson tapped another Transporter director to take the helm of the sequel to his surprise smash hit. But poor Olivier Megaton (yes, his legally changed real name) doesn’t match Pierre Morel’s inventiveness in the first. The kinetic camerawork becomes frantic in this sequel. Vertigo-inducing at some stages, there are parts where you just don’t know what’s going on, and bafflingly, if a bad guy has actually died.
But the blame must lie at Besson, as the script he’s handed Olivier is just poor. The sheer relentless pace of the first is laboured in the second (even with the same running times). Some plot points have eyes seriously rolling. Bad guys kidnap Liam, lock him up, but don’t keep watch? Liam, a resourceful sort of guy, enlists his daughter to save him? The daughter, who can’t drive, is suddenly Jason Bourne on the streets of Istanbul? You can sustain some amount of believability, but it was disbelief at the way they built up the main villain without any payoff. That’s action movie 101.
Besson has milked a lot of the surprise hits he’s produced. The Stath’s Transporter flicks, French action comedy Taxi (with 3 sequels) and now Taken. Back in the day you could rely on these cash cows cropping up at the video store not the cinema. They’ve even toned down the violence to get the PG13 rating and it just feels weak. A potentially chilling torture scene with Famke is almost laughable.
Poor Neeson is just going through the motions, with only a few moments of inventiveness and mostly punch, shoot, and onto the next guy. No real jeopardy for Neeson, his ex-wife or his daughter,who, at 29, does not pass for 18. Plus Neeson’s surprise at her having a boyfriend at that age is a joke. Setting up the boyfriend, and the US $49 million Taken 2 just took on it’s opening weekend, makes me believe Taken 3 is already on the horizon. Though Neeson has some other, and pretty funny, ideas in the Empire article below.
Taken 2 takes a lot of what made the original so awesome and throws it out the window. The inventiveness, the sheer-baddassery and actual jeopardy for it’s participants is missing. Take it or leave.
For some laughs here’s Taken Sesame