Review: 'Taken 2' starring Liam Neeson
The original Taken was a barely passable piece of genre fun elevated by the surprising bad ass turn by Liam Neeson. Without him the film would be like any of a million other Luc Besson-scripted films he can't be bothered with directing, with bursts of rapid fire action aimed at random evil foreign dudes in exotic locales. Neeson as the aging hero Bryan Mills beating the piss out of his foes was cool but also a little comical, and the film left itself open to parody almost immediately. Little did we know that the harshest ridicule would be self-inflicted, as Taken 2 fails in just about every way, giving one final kick to the groin to the ridiculous franchise that never should have been so popular in the first place.
It would be one thing if the film could work merely as a passable actioner that reheated much of the same stuff as before, but it can't even manage to do that. The awesomely-named Olivier Megaton takes over as director, although his herky-jerky camera style is anything but awesome. All it does is serve to muddle the few solid bits of action we do get. That's right, Taken 2 is not only just one of the worst written movies of the year, it's painfully dull as well.
Nearly a solid hour goes by before we truly get into the thick of a ludicrous story that must have been pulled freshly from Besson and co-writer Robert Kamen's rear ends. You know all those Albanian guys Bryan killed in the last movie? The ones who kidnapped his daughter, Kim(Maggie Grace)? Turns out they were all part of a small village that makes its living on the sex trade, and now the townsfolk want revenge. Rade Serbedzija plays a father whose son was killed in an especially brutal way by Bryan, and looks to get some revenge for his friends and loved ones. Good thing Bryan suffers a severe lack of judgement and invites his ungrateful ex-wife(Famke Janssen) and daughter on a trip to Istanbul, where they could be quickly kidnapped. Actually, Kim manages to get away, and if there's anything we want to see in Taken 2 it's Liam Neeson NOT kicking butt. Let's watch the daughter run around the rooftops for twenty minutes, instead.
Other than some frivolous stuff involving Kim's new boyfriend, a driving test she can't pass, and Bryan's attempts to win back his wife, the razor thin plot is all but spelled out. The last film was equally bare bones, but it had the benefit of being a straight-line brawler that rarely stopped to take a breath. Taken 2 isn't that at all, as the bulk of the film is Bryan trying to escape capture while figuring a way to get Kim to safety. The silliness of Bryan's obsessively compulsive demeanor begins more apparent without the benefit of some bone-breaking to distract us. Bryan seems to have developed the superhuman ability to discern his hidden location without even a shred of evidence, and to find his position on a map by having his daughter lob grenades all over Istanbul. In one hilariously awful sequence, Bryan directs his wife on how to escape their pursuers, and the interaction goes something like this...
Bryan: When you leave the car I want you to head down the alley and take the first right, then take the first left, then the next right, then straight and up the steps. Then take a left at the felafel cart and another left at the pyramid then through the store and down the ramp and wave "Hello" to the mime....
Ok, that last part was made up but it's not far off! This would all be fine if for a second the film was perhaps having a little fun with our expectations, but that's not the case. It's deadly serious nearly the whole time, and that makes just how incompetently done it is all the more glaring. Megaton's frenzied camerawork was a fine fit for the much glossier The Transporter 3, but it's proven to be a major distraction in this and in last year's Colombiana. Even Neeson is diminished here, and much of the physicality he once held has given way to just looking old. The fight scenes are mostly anti-climactic, and not even he can make the badly written family scenes work. The only ones who should be more offended by how bad this movie is are Muslims, who are stereotyped and misrepresented at every turn.
In short, Taken 2 does nearly everything wrong, and is so bad it may sour your feelings towards the first film. If you loved Taken, it might be in your best interest to find another film to spend money on this weekend.