In Taken, Liam Neeson’s Bryan Mills tracked down the human traffickers who’d kidnapped his daughter and killed them. In Taken 2, relatives of the men he killed come after him seeking vengeance – but even with some serious attempts to do something different, the sequel is still too much of the same thing.
Following a job, Mills persuades his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) and ex-wife Lenore/Lennie (Famke Janssen) to join him for a holiday in Istanbul. When the father (Rade Serbedzija) of one of Kim’s kidnappers from the first film takes him and Lennie captive, he uses his ‘particular set of skills’ to guide Kim to where they’ve been hidden, frees himself, and sets about making sure that nothing like this can ever happen again.
Part of the fun of Taken was that Neeson, who made an unlikely action hero to begin with, did a lot of his own stuntwork and really got into the role. In the sequel – also written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen – director Olivier Megaton (Transporter 3, Columbiana) has cut the action sequences in such a way that it’s almost never clear how much of the time Neeson is actually there, thus cutting a large chunk from the heart of the film.
Neither Grace nor Janssen has much to do – besides looking scared – and we never really get much of a chance to relate to them. This, too, detracts from any heart Taken 2 might otherwise have had.
As one of the minority of critics who enjoyed Megaton’s earlier work with Besson, I was very disappointed by Taken 2. It seemed like it had even less of a rationale for its action – and what it did have was too forced.
A scene in which Serbedzija’s character goes to great lengths to describe his plans for Mills’ daughter is so off-putting that several audience members walked out of the screening I attended, and feels like it was dropped into the movie solely to motivate Mills – as if the threat to him and his family wasn’t enough to begin with. It also serves to rob the characters of being anything more than a device to move the action forward.
Even as Mills utilizes that particular set of skills he’s learned over the years, he does so with such a frantic pace that we never actually see anything but the results of their use – even in the fight sequences, everything is cut so quixotically that there’s never a sense of any kind of reality.
Neeson stills gives Mills that wounded gravitas that made him so relatable in the first film, but the script goes out of its way to rob anyone else of possible relatability. If you want to see people get beat up, but nothing more, then Taken 2 will be a sufficient diversion. If you want characters, plot, or even a semblance of coherence, look elsewhere.
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