The surprise smash hit action film Taken might have elevated Liam Neeson into his new career as an all purpose badass, but few probably thought that a sequel to the worldwide smash would have ever been warranted. With Taken 2, both doubters and those enthusiastic to see Neeson get back to using his “specific set of skills” will be proven absolutely right. There isn’t a real valid reason for the existence of Taken 2, but those on the lookout for a gleefully implausible and ludicrously silly action thriller will find an undeniable amount of entertainment in this surprisingly entertaining follow-up that doesn’t out do the original as much as it amps up the threadbare premise.
Set only a year after the first film, semi-retired CIA operatie Bryan Mills (Neeson) has almost completely reconciled with his ex-wife (Famke Janssen), but his now overbearing relationship to his daughter (Maggie Grace) has become strained thanks to his now constant paranoia. He invites the two of them to meet him in Istanbul as soon as he’s finished some “business” to enjoy a relaxing vacation, but the father of one of the men he killed in the first film (Rade Serbedzija) wants to kidnap all three members of the family and bring them to the mass gravesite where all of Bryan’s victims now reside.
Right off the bat, director Olivier Megatron (returning from his duties on the first film) almost goes the full Michael Bay. There’s enormous sweeping shots, crazy and almost incoherent editing that leads to no shots lasting more than a few seconds, and a European electro score beating with the urgency of wires being struck together. The viewer will know by the end of the opening sequence where Serbedzija explains his nefarious and almost Bond villain-esque plans if this is the kind of journey they want to take or not, and it might help to temper expectations accordingly. Two sequences that very obviously utilize the soundtrack to Drive and a fight sequence in an empty room that comes almost straight out of The Raid: Redemption only serve to underline the point that the film exists out of a sense of pure escapism. There are some heavy handed attempts to include some sort of socio-political subtext, but it’s all drowned out and discredited within seconds.
There’s absolutely no room in Megatron and co-writer/producer Luc Besson’s vision for anything approaching subtlety or characterization. Why dwell on such things when there are so many necks to snap and fruit carts to plow through during highs peed chases? The one interesting aspect of the film comes from the fact that Bryan gets captured relatively early on in the film (but don’t worry, it’s not for long and Neeson still opens up cans of whoop-ass on a wholesale level), leaving Grace’s daughter to save her parents. The fifteen minutes or so of the film where this all happens contains some of the most dubious logic and most improbably set of steps that a film has attempted in quite some time. It’s impossible to keep a straight face while all of this happens, but a smile during a film like this at least means the film works on its own brain dead level.
Taken 2 isn’t a great movie by any stretch, but for those looking for 90 minutes of nearly pointless action with a continued excellent performance from Neeson, it’s exactly what you would want and expect. It’s the first film all over again, in a new location, with everything taken to the limit. It’s exciting and silly all in the same breath, and it never outstays its welcome. The fact that the ending even hints at another film in the franchise, however, might be just a bit too much of a good thing.
Cast: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen
Directed by: Olivier Megaton
Top image: A scene from Taken 2. Courtesy 20th Century Fox.