Take It Back! – A Taken 2 Review
TITLE: Taken 2
STARRING: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Rade Sherbedgia, Leland Orser
DIRECTOR: Olivier Megaton
STUDIOS: 20th Century Fox, EuropaCorp
RUN TIME: 91 min
RELEASED: October 5, 2012
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
Jeez, you’d think a family that includes Ra’s al Ghul and Jean Grey would be less prone to being taken once, let alone twice. Pull some Dark Phoenix/Lazarus Pit mojo out, you guys! C’mon now!
But alas, Taken 2 sees former CIA agent Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) fighting for his family’s survival yet again. This time, the relatives of some of the Albanian human traffickers he killed in the first film are out for revenge. They kidnap Bryan and his ex-wife Lennie (Famke Janssen) during their vacation to Istanbul. They also go after Bryan’s daughter Kim (Magge Grace), but she escapes. Now, with Kim on the outside and Bryan and Lennie in the hands of the kidnappers, the family must make use of the skills Bryan learned in the CIA to fight their way to freedom.
Despite appearing to be a fairly run-of-the-mill action/suspense flick, Taken became a surprise hit in 2008. I attribute this two two things. The first is Liam Neeson, particularly for the ultra bad ass monologue he delivered near the beginning of the movie. You know, the one about him having “a very particular set of skills.” The other is the way the tension was built up over the course of the movie. Neeson’s daughter was kidnapped by human traffickers, and we didn’t see her again until the film’s climax. This helped us sympathize with the Bryan Mills character, in that like him, we had no idea where this girl was, what was being done to her, or by whom. We could feel some of that desperation in him, and as such get behind him in his quest to find her, and enjoy seeing him punish the bad guys. All these elements added up to create a pretty good suspense film.
Taken 2 has very little suspense. It has a potentially suspenseful premise, but its main issue is that any tension that arises in the film is almost always dissolved by either bad storytelling or bad editing. Unlike Taken, where we were unravelling a mystery alongside the Bryan Mills character, Taken 2 lays it all out for us. We know who the kidnappers are from the get go. Because Bryan and Lennie are both kidnapped, we know where our victims are for most of the movie. Thus, we have no mystery to unravel, and the rescue element that made the first film a success has been partially neutralized.
The movie also shatters our suspension of disbelief a few times. Bryan’s daughter Kim becomes his pseudo sidekick this time around, helping him out via telephone. As Bryan sits in the kidnappers’ basement, or dungeon or whatever, he guides Kim to their location by having her toss grenades around Istanbul. and Bryan gauges the distance of the sound to determine her location in relation to his. I didn’t have a problem with Bryan keeping grenades in his special CIA bad ass briefcase. But what did seem rather odd was that this teenage girl could simply throw grenades around the largest city in Turkey and not attract attention to herself. Then later, Bryan has her drive a getaway car through the crowded streets of Istanbul while he hangs out the window and shoots at the bad guys. All the while he’s badgering her to “Go Kim, go! Drive!” Hey, how about you take it easy dad? The kid’s only 16, has no driver’s license yet, has never been to Istanbul, and was brought into this high speed chase by you, after you spent the entirety of the last film trying to rescue her from this kind of thing!!!
Another tension killer? The fight scenes are poorly edited. I’m not sure what limitations they were working with, if any, but the cuts are very fast, shaky at times, and just generally hard to follow. It’s rather difficult to get into an action movie if you can’t follow the action, am I right?
While Liam Neeson still makes a very effective, if not a bit unlikely ass kicker, this movie fails its predecessor in almost every way. Personally, I’d have enjoyed seeing the Albanians kidnap Liam Neeson’s character, then had him escape their clutches, and then watch the kidnappers chase him around Istanbul. At least then the character would have more of an excuse to show off that “particular set of skills” that helped make Taken a success. Sadly, this was simply another crappy sequel.
All images courtesy of RottenTomatoes.com.