Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:
Taken 2 (2012)
Just a few years ago, a little film called “Taken” was released. It was a pulse-pounding, adrenaline-fueled thrill ride that was the rare case of a movie that’s almost entirely action working extremely well. As far as the story went, it kept you glued to your seat as you follow a father who is willing to do anything he can to get his daughter back. Sure it wasn’t developed particularly far, but it didn’t have to be in order to work as an action template.
Now, with the original’s great success, we’re faced with the inevitable sequel, “Taken 2,” that has Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) continuing his work in the security business. He’s on better terms with his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), and ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen), especially after the events of the first film. After Kim and Lenore’s plans for a vacation fall through, Bryan invites them to spend some time with him in Istanbul where he is doing a job for a client. They accept and meet him there when his job is finished.
Meanwhile, Bryan is unaware that the father of the man who kidnapped his daughter, Murad (Rade Serbedzija), has sworn to take revenge on him, not only for killing his son, but also for killing family members of many of his friends. While Bryan and Lenore are out in the city, some of Murad’s men manage to capture them both. Luckily Kim was not with them at the time, though that doesn’t stop more men from trying to take her too. Bryan, being a particularly resourceful man, has a few tricks up his sleeve when it comes to situations like this, as we well know. This, as you can probably guess, leads to his captors’ inevitable realization that they’ve messed with the wrong man.
Where to begin with how this sequel went so very wrong? I suppose the best place to start is the beginning. It sets up a somewhat decent story (at least the part about the father wanting revenge for the death of his son), though as to how Kim was not traumatized enough from her experience so as never to want to leave the country again was a little strange, but let’s put that aside and accept that she’s fully willing to go to Istanbul to spend time with her mom and dad.
Looking at the other side of the story, we have Murad trying to take revenge against a man who single-handedly killed many, many people in the previous film, so as to why he thought it would be a good idea to send many, many more was a little baffling. Perhaps he found a group of people who had a death wish? Then again, it could be that he simply thought that he’d have better luck than all those that came before him.
We could go on and on about plotholes (Kim using grenades to locate her father without getting caught by the police, Kim and her Dad blasting through an embassy checkpoint followed by having a few minutes to sit and chat in a car), but let’s actually look at the film itself. When the kidnapping actually happens, you’d think that this would be the time for the action to start, but in this case, you’d be wrong. For this film, they felt that that should be the time for the film to become overly-procedural.
The filmmakers end up wasting much of the film’s first half simply on Bryan trying to find out where he’s headed and on Kim trying to help him once he gets there. There are some interesting techniques here, such as Bryan taking note of the directions turn by turn and counting the time in between each, but it spends far too much time on this and on scenes of him helping Kim create a search area on a map, which leads to the absurdity of her using grenades to help pinpoint Bryan’s location.
When the second half rolls around, we quickly realize that the film has been lacking in most of the action that made the first one such an exciting experience. That’s not to say this sequel is completely lacking in it, but there ends up being far too little, which causes the weaknesses in the story (such as all the one’s I’ve pointed out) to stand out clear as day.
When we do get some actions scenes, such as a car chase about halfway through, they end up being rather monotonous and absurd (I find that word pertains to this movie quite a lot), particularly when we have Kim driving a car like a professional stunt driver while she hasn’t even passed her driving test at home yet. There’s also the problem of some particularly bad, frenetic editing in the action sequences near the end of the film. This could have been due to the editor’s poor skills or director Olivier Megaton’s (“Colombiana”) poor direction, or quite possibly both.
It’s disappointing to find out that this was written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, the writers of the original film. This sequel just comes off as rushed and very lazy in terms of plotting. If they had taken their time with it, they would have seen that the story is full of holes and that it was lacking the essential elements to engage the audience once more. It’s not like we really needed a sequel in the first place, but it’s possible that it could work with the right story in place. However, whatever that right story may be, Besson and Kamen certainly haven’t found it. 2/4 stars.