By Garrett Collins
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Leland Orser and DB Sweeney
If there are two things that are popular in modern cinema, they would be remakes and Liam Neeson. Say what you will about the former, but Dredd has been pretty warmly received, and with Robocop coming right down the pike, I don’t see them going away anytime soon. And, while I wasn’t an overly enthusiastic fan of the first Taken, the one thing that made the tired formula of a father who goes to rescue his daughter work was Neeson. An instantly likable guy, Neeson is sort of the anti-Seagal (whose films from the 80s came to mind while watching it). It was fun to see Neeson’s character of Bryan diabolically take his daughter’s abductors apart. And, it was only through him that people whose ages ranged from teenagers all the way to senior citizenship gravitated towards Taken and made it an unexpected smash hit in 2008. When it was announced there would be a sequel, I was more than a little skeptical. Add on to the fact that co-writer/producer Luc Besson (who has said this will be Taken‘s only sequel) handed the directing reigns to Olivier Megaton, whose name sounds more like a Decepticon’s than that of a director, and my skepticism was multiplied. He had made an uneven mess of a film last year called Columbiana, and when the first few scenes shown here ended up being funerals of the villains from the first film, the unevenness was immediately beginning to show. This unevenness, unfortunately, didn’t end until Taken 2’s final credits.
When I say that remakes come to mind when watching this movie, I mean that Taken 2, by all intents and purposes, is a remake of the first one, with the only difference being more exotic scenery and locals. Whereas the first one had Bryan’s daughter being brought into a prostitution ring, this one, like most sequels do, ups the stakes by putting his entire family in danger. This time, the extended family of those that were taken out by Neeson are bringing the pain, and it was unnerving to see the head of this family (played by Rade Serbezidja), who looks like he would slit the neck of his mother in the blink of an eye, set forth the plan of kidnapping Bryan’s family and then just sit in his chair waiting for the confirmation call that it had been done.
Along with a new villain, Taken 2 boasts the return of not only Neeson, but his supporting family members. Grace brings her all to her role, as she has a bit more to work with this time besides yelling for her daddy to rescue her. Her character has a boyfriend this time. A boyfriend that Neeson is (rightly?) skeptical of, and whose appearance in the early going supplies the film with the few light-hearted moments before the carnage begins. She even, at one point, gets her hands on some hand grenades! Jansenn unfortunately spends the majority of the film either knocked out or groggily waking up, so that can either be construed as the most relaxing acting gig of all time or shoddy writing.
My bet is that a lot of the blame can be made on the latter. Because, say what you will about the first one, its script is perhaps the most tightly written of Besson’s career. In that film, it was fun watching Neeson strategize while fighting for the survival of his daughter. Here, he does some pretty weakly written things such as determining where a terrorist is by the sound of its dog’s bark and, even though he is hooded, counting and tracking which direction they are going to get to the villains’ headquarters.
To say that Taken 2 was a disappointment would be an understatement. Thinly written and dumbly executed, the film doesn’t leave you with anything worth remembering by the time you leave the theater. Sure, there is some pretty nicely staged action, and Neeson once again brings the tough guy goods. But, there just isn’t anything worth investing in this time. The funny part about this review is that even though Besson is saying this is the last one, you know that if it opens like gangbusters, there will be another sequel. And, as much as I am urging you to stay away from this one, it is a testament to Neeson’s ability that I will be among the first in line when that sequel is released. In the meantime, I recommend you avoid Taken 2 like Megaton avoids logic.
2.5 out of 5