By Bob Garver
I want to start by saying that I wasn’t a fan of 2009’s “Taken”. I found it routine and unengaging. It is therefore important to keep in mind that I am not the audience for this past weekend’s “Taken 2”. Having said that, even if you were a fan of the original and therefore are the audience for the sequel, I still don’t think you’ll find much to like about “Taken 2”.
“Taken” saw ex-CIA agent Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) track down his kidnapped daughter (Maggie Grace) and use his “very particular set of skills” to wipe out her kidnappers. The appeal of the film completely revolved around Neeson, a distinguished older actor breathing life into an otherwise bland action movie. His over-the-phone monologue to the kidnappers is often referenced and quoted in popular culture. Neeson wasn’t a stranger to action movies (he was, of course, Qui-Gon Jin in “Star Wars: Episode I” and the villainous Ra’s Al Ghoul in “The Dark Knight”), but the idea of him carrying a non-franchise piece at that point in his career was unusual and intriguing. Neeson has since starred in many more bland action movies and the novelty has long since worn off.
The new film sees Mills vacationing with his family in Istanbul. There’s a subplot about the daughter trying to get Mills back together with his ex-wife (Famke Janssen). They all get targeted for abduction by the father of one of the dead bad guys from the first movie. Apparently the new villain (Rade Serbedzija) is cunning enough to identify Mills as the man who killed his son and then expertly track him to a country foreign to both men. He then spends the rest of the movie serving as one of the stupidest serious movie villains I’ve ever seen.
Naturally, the idiot villain isn’t content to just kill Mills and his family, he wants Mills to suffer first. So he chains up Mills and puts him in a situation where he’ll have to watch his ex-wife die slowly. Except he doesn’t bother to supervise as his master plan unfolds. He leaves the room unattended with a sole inept guard waiting outside and a roomful of distracted henchmen watching television down the hall. Because it wouldn’t be a bad action movie without a roomful of distracted henchmen watching television down the hall.
The film resorts to many other painful action movie clichés. Among them is the one where a bad guy inexplicably tries to kill someone execution style (instead of just shooting her at the first opportunity), we hear a gunshot, and then we find out that it wasn’t he who fired. There’s also the one where a character is bad at something and is then called upon to perform exceptionally well under intense pressure (in this case it’s the daughter and driving). For me, the dumbest was the one where the good guy and a bad guy throw down their weapons and fight each other fairly. This device can be awesome if the film establishes that both characters are formidable fighters (or at least interesting characters whose fates we care about), but it’s just Mills against some random goon. The scene has no reason to exist other than to show us that Liam Neeson can pull off a physically demanding fight scene.
“Taken 2” is a pretty shameless cash-in, an action movie with only one unique bit of action (in which hand grenades are used as search tools instead of weapons). Neeson isn’t the unexpected wild card he once was, and there’s nothing appealing about the rest of the film. It is an unremarkable movie born of another unremarkable movie.
One and a Half Stars out of Five.
“Taken 2” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sensuality. Its running time is 91 minutes.
Contact Bob Garver at firstname.lastname@example.org.