Director: Olivier Megaton
Writers: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen
Stars: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Rade Serbedzjia
Release date: October 5th, 2013
Distributors: EuropaCorp Distribution, 20th Century Fox
Running time: 91 minutes
Best part: Liam Neeson.
Worst part: Poor action set-pieces.
In 2008, Taken became a worldwide box office success and critically acclaimed French-American thriller. It turned into a surprise hit for contemporary action cinema and changed the career of now 60 year old veteran actor Liam Neeson. The original’s comfort food-like enjoyability not only created Neeson’s current action hero status but was a rare win for French action cinema great Luc Besson. As it was several notches above most contemporary action schlock with Besson’s name on it as co-writer and producer, it was inevitable that a sequel would occur. Unfortunately, Taken 2 becomes what everyone feared the original was going to be.
This clinical and forgettable action flick takes the fun out of the original, turning a gritty look at Eastern Europe into a much bigger yet blander Hollywood-ised follow up. This time, the string of slimy Albanian mafia members murdered by Bryan Mills (Neeson) in the original are now being laid to rest. Mafia boss and father of one of Mills’ victims (Serbedzjia) vows vengeance on his son’s murderer. Joining Mills in Turkey, ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) and daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) are still trying to move on from Kim’s abduction. But the mafia soon catches up to them, leaving the resourceful Mills and his family to escape their captors and destroy the avenging European villains once and for all.Continuing Neeson’s busy year after The Grey, Wrath of the Titans and Battleship, Taken 2 is an unoriginal, disappointing and dull action thriller. Borrowing elements from influential action thrillers and directors from the past decade, what is left is a shadow of the subtle yet violent original.
Tony Scott’s frayed visuals and grunge soundtrack are replayed over and over, without creating a suitable tone for every dirt covered setting and brutal murder. Along with blatantly borrowing two songs from last year’s Drive soundtrack, Director Olivier Megaton (one of Besson’s regulars with The Transporter 3 and Columbiana to his credit) sorely replaces brutality with scale, decreasing the emotional and visceral impact of the low budget original. With the original effectively focusing on the European mafia’s sex and drug trafficking trades, the sequel quickly falls into generic revenge thriller territory. Neeson’s ageing anti hero and overly protective father searching for his daughter created a scary yet affable character for Neeson’s dramatic talents. The new film repeats several of Mills’ ‘particular set of skills’, not only simplifying his awareness of every street corner and sound but blandly flashing back to already witnessed events. Despite Neeson’s usual charisma, his character here is little more than a generic Bourne-like action hero. The family’s problems cover the first 40 minutes of this boring pseudo-remake. What should be discussed about their previous overseas travels is only touched on in flashback, instead discussing uninteresting quarrels such as Kim’s driving lessons. The film from this point on is a xenophobic and excessive look at European culture. Turkey apparently contains nothing but mob informants on every corner and a serious lack of competent authorities.
“I have to make sure these people never bother us again in our lives.” (Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), Taken 2).
The implausibilities of every situation are fun to point out, yet take more of the realism away from this relatively low key thriller. The seemingly unlimited number of European villains are continually mowed down by Neeson with relative ease. While the instructions given to his daughter running around Istanbul quickly extend to unsubtle heroic actions, particularly involving grenades going off in broad daylight. The action sequences, though choreographed with a realistic and bone-crunching style, suffer from quick cuts, confusing digital strobing effects and shaking cameras. Taking away from the brutality and impact of the original, the bloodless and confusing action sequences are the result of Taken 2 being sorely cut down to fit the film’s inexplicable M15+ rating. While the film’s climactic Bourne Supremacy-like taxi cab chase is edited too tightly around every twist and turn through Istanbul’s narrow streets. Luckily, the performances save this generic actioner from being completely interminable. Neeson pulls off the heroic secret agent role with a balance of ferocity and charm. Grace steps up to the role of her parent’s saviour with vulnerability. While Janssen and Serbedzjia are underused in important roles.
Ultimately, the film takes too long to decide what it wants to do. With an uneven pace and one generic twist and turn after another, what is left is very little to recommend and a classic example of sequelitis. Dear Mr. Neeson, please pick better material!