Film Review – Taken 2
For those unfamiliar with the events of 2008’s Taken (and if this is the case, plan a sick day and rent it), Liam Neeson’s daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), is kidnapped while on a trip to Paris, with the intention of being sold into prostitution. Once Neeson’s Bryan Mills catches wind of this, he uses his skills as a former CIA agent to track down and rescue her, mercilessly killing any who get in his way. The Luc-Besson-scripted film was a whole lot more fun than one could have expected, and is arguably comparable to silly but reliable staples such as Point Break and Die Hard.
Bryan is more understandably protective of daughter Kim this time around, going so far as planting a GPS and showing up unexpectedly at her boyfriend’s front door when she’s not home. His ex-wife “Lenny” (Famke Jannsen) has warmed to him considerably since the events of Taken, and there are hints of Bryan supplanting his station in the family once it’s revealed her current marriage is crumbling. He invites both women to meet him in Istanbul for some sight-seeing where he’s been sent on assignment, and it’s here that most of the action takes place. See, one of the expired baddies from the first film has a remorseful and vengeful father intent on making Bryan pay for the murder of his son. He and his crew follow Bryan’s family to Istanbul and, faster than you can say “Death Wish,” Lenny is kidnapped.
I liked this development quite a bit. One of the lingering questions I had as the body count almost literally piled up in the first movie was “Won’t he be held accountable for this?” What I don’t understand or fully buy, though, is that Bryan himself didn’t see the payback coming. The ruthlessness of Kim’s captors would suggest to me that maybe, just maybe, they aren’t out of the woods just yet.
A lot of the fun in the first Taken stemmed both from Bryan’s relentless drive and the clever ways in which he wiggled his way out of seemingly sure-proof captures. And while his drive here is certainly still intact, Taken 2 disappointingly skimps out on innovative means of escape in favor of hyperkinetic fisticuffs. The fight scenes on display here are often so muddled it’s impossible to tell who’s who or what’s happening. Considering director Olivier Megaton’s (is there an award for most hilariously appropriate last name?) most high profile project prior to this was Transporter 3, however, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise.
And while we’re at it, when oh when will bad guys learn not to leave their hostages unattended? Have none of you seen this scenario expertly lampooned in Austin Powers?! Zip ties and metal piping are child’s play to Bryan Mills. If you can’t see that, I’m afraid we’re going to have to revoke your Villain Card.
This is not to say there aren’t some fun set pieces. The forced enlistment of Kim in her mother’s rescue makes for a couple of thrilling (if goofy) scenes. Hint: when it’s established in the first 15 minutes of an action movie that your daughter has twice failed her driver’s test, odds are she’ll find herself in the position of unstable getaway driver before too long. Couple that with a scene I won’t give away except to say “kablooey,” and you’ll most likely find yourself grinning in spite of yourself.
Taken 2 knows its audience. The unexpected success of the original ensured at least one sequel, and it hits on a lot of the required notes. My only hope moving forward (as it’s left wide open for another installment) is that they hone in on Bryan’s MacGyver-like quick thinking that made the first one so special.
Final Grade: B-