By Gary Murray
Starring Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen and Maggie Grace
Written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
Directed by Olivier Megaton
Running time 91 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating Cable
Taken was a surprise hit from a few seasons ago. The story was of a father with a ‘particular set of skills’ who has his daughter abducted into white slavery. This one man CIA trained army proceeds to track down this little girl and save her from the bad guys. Along the way he kills dozens of evil men, torturing some of them in the process. It was a violent and dark action flick that had some long legs at the box office. Since the film made so much money, Hollywood deemed a sequel—with the cleaver name of Taken 2
Taken 2 takes place not long after the events of the first film. The opening shots are of the father (Rade Serbedzija) of the traffickers burying their dead. He vows revenge on the man who killed his son.
Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is retired from the Company but still has his hand in protection work. He has a cordial relationship with his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) and is still the doting dad with his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). Kim is still trying to get over all the events that happened in the first film while trying to get a driver’s license and trying to land a boyfriend.
To help bond with his daughter, Bryan invites the family to fly over to Istanbul for a bit of sight-seeing. He has a security job in the country. Almost instantly, he is recognized by the bad guys and they decide to kidnap the entire family. The initial kidnapping goes wrong and only Mom and Dad are taken. Bryan has to one again use his ‘particular set of skills’ to figure out where he is being taken, how to escape and then how to rescue his wife. Along the way, the body count mounts.
The problem with Taken 2 falls directly in the lap of director Olivier Megaton. His direction has little style and way too much effort to the point where it feels as if he is trying too hard to make the perfect action movie. Some of his shot selections are sloppy and ill-chosen, never giving the audiences a semblance of what is happening. He never gets the right rhythm to the Luc Besson script.
The big car chase that is supposed to be the anchor set-piece feels forced and flat. The way it is framed, the action does not work. The film drags along to the point where the 90 minute feature feels like two hours. That is the worse element of the movie—it takes too long to get anywhere and once the film gets to where it is going, there is not that much that is different than the last outing. The freshness of the idea has gone stale.
Liam Neeson seems bored with this part. In the last decade, the actor seems to be playing the same sort of role again and again. All have been variations of that same stoic character he’s portrayed before. This is the man who gave us Schindler’s List, Rob Roy and Michael Collins, all complicated individuals. Here he looks lost in a role that is more for a paycheck and not a challenge.
Maggie Grace is way too old to be someone who is just getting their driver’s license. Though she gets to do much more here than in the first film, Maggie is still basically a variation of the damsel in distress. She eventually becomes the sidekick to her father and her mother then becomes our lady in danger. Famke Janssen has played many tough women over the years and it is hard to believe she is not a butt-kicking action star of the piece. It is stretch to believe she is in danger.
Truly the only reason to see Taken 2 is to catch the performance of Rade Serbedzija. This character actor comes across as evil, driven and insanely justified in his revenge. Manipulating his character is a macabre joy to observe.
You see this movie and you will be Taken 2…the proverbial cleaners. The negatives overpower any positive reason to watch this film. One is better off just to rent the first Taken again.