Review: Taken 2
PLOT: Ex-CIA operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is back. While on vacation in Istanbul, Mills and his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen) are captured by relatives of the men who took his daughter in the last film. Now Mills must rely on his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace) to help him escape- so he can take back Lenore and kill the men who threaten his family.
REVIEW: They should have just called this TAKEN AGAIN, as that pretty much sums up exactly what this incredibly lazy, uninspired sequel ends up being. Let's face it- the first TAKEN, hoot that it was, was always kind of a one off B-movie, and didn't necessarily demand to become a franchise. But- nowadays, if a modestly budgeted film like TAKEN grosses $100 million, a sequel becomes a given. In an effort to give audiences what it's presumed they want, co-writers/producers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen have slavishly stuck to the formula they established in the first film- to the point that TAKEN 2 plays like a virtual remake of the first film- with only a few twists and tweaks.
One of the things that gave TAKEN a little extra punch was the fact that it dealt with the very real, terrifying issue of human trafficking- but perhaps, in an effort to tone the sequel down a bit- that aspect is dropped. Rather, we just have another bunch of anonymous Albanian villains (anyone who thought the first was racist will find this even more so)- led by Rade Serbedzija, who plays the grizzled father of the man Neeson tortured to death in the first film. Their motive is simply revenge- and even Serbedzija's never really given enough screen time to establish any kind of real menace.
Lack of originality aside- TAKEN 2 would be fine if it delivered in the action category, but even on that level it fails. Pierre Morel, who helmed the first one, is replaced by EuropaCorp regular Olivier Megaton. While his name promises badassery, so far his films (TRANSPORTER 3 and COLOMBIANA) have come up short, and the action scenes are all by the numbers. Like this first film, it takes a good half-hour to get going, but while the other one had a cool 72-hour window to give it urgency, this one kind of meanders along, with Neeson spending way to much of the film tied up, directing his daughter to chuck grenades all over Istanbul- so he can hear how far away the explosions are. Naturally, the cops seem to be fine with this.
His daughter's reign of terror is cut short early enough, leading to a confusingly shot car-chase/shoot-out, and some quick hand-to-hand scraps, that are even harder to decipher than they were in the last film. While Neeson still rakes up an impressive body count, TAKEN 2 does feel substantially less gritty than the first film which, although PG-13 (in theaters)- seemed to have been only cut to that at the eleventh hour. This was likely always conceived as teen-friendly.
One thing TAKEN 2 does have going for it is Neeson, who- despite being well into his sixties, looks great and seems game for action. While he pretty much just glowers, growls and beats the crap out of people (while not shooting them)- Neeson has always been a good fit for the action genre, helped by the fact that at 6'4, he towers over everyone else in the movie.
While Famke Janssen spends most of the movie tied up and gagged, Maggie Grace gets a little more to do this time around, and while I thought her driving skills where a little too-JamesBond for a character that's supposed to have failed her driver's licence three times, she's fine- and looks great. Neeson's CIA buddies, played by Leland Orser, and Jon Gries are back- and now D.B Sweeney (rockin' a handlebar 'stache) is hangin' out with them too, not that any of them get to do much.
On the whole though, TAKEN 2 just gets steadily worse and worse as it goes on. It's so un-original that they even have the audacity to use copy DRIVE and use The Chromatic's 'Tick of the Clock' on the soundtrack during an action scene where- you guessed it, a clock ticks. The only action beat that even came close to being satisfying was a quick one-on-one scrap towards the end between Neeson and the number two baddie. Otherwise, all the action is boring.
It's too bad TAKEN 2 ended up being such a drag, as I really enjoyed the first one, and love watching Neeson as a bad-ass. But- if he does enough movies like TAKEN 2, he's going to wind up like Charles Bronson in the late-eighties- stuck in an endless rut of trashy d-level actioners. While I've no doubt the goodwill generated by the first film will mean this makes a pile of cash, it's really not worth the time- which is unfortunate.
|Extra Tidbit:||Another DRIVE track is re-purposed, when a bikini-clad Maggie Grace listens to 'A Real Hero' by College on her iPhone.|