‘Taken 2’ with Liam Neeson Trades Action For Nonsense
CHICAGO – Olivier Megaton’s “Taken 2” is utter nonsense, a film that plays like a cross between Seth MacFarlane spoofing the first film on “Family Guy” and “MacGyver” fan fiction (although nowhere NEAR as much fun as that might make it sound). Everything that worked about the action-packed “Taken,” a surprising hit and a solid genre flick, has been corrupted here by jump cuts, horrendous plotting, and a complete lack of anything of interest outside of Neeson’s half-engaged performance. It’s truly awful.
Perhaps the biggest problem with “Taken 2” on a foundational level is that the first film had a common fear with which to play. One could identify with Kim Mills (Maggie Grace), the girl who ventured outside of her comfort zone and was kidnapped. Anyone who can remember the first time they traveled without their parents as a safety net can relate to that fear of what could happen halfway around the world. By the same token, those who have children could relate to the fear inherent in letting them leave the nest. “Taken” worked because it played off relatable themes and turned them into action fodder.
Photo credit: Fox
“Taken 2” does none of that. It presumes an interest and concern for Kim, Lenore (Famke Janssen), and Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) that simply isn’t there. You know why? They’re not real characters. They’re ridiculous clichés of the protective father who tracks down her daughter’s boyfriend, the ex-wife who is struggling with her new relationship (because, let’s be honest, there’s no way she can find happiness without Super-Bryan to save her), and the daughter who is so thin on character that she gets to veer broadly from tough chick to damsel in distress as the nauseating screenplay dictates.
In a woefully misguided answer to the “how on Earth do we get these people kidnapped again” question, “Taken 2” is actually a vengeance piece. Its villain is Murad Hoxha (Rade Serbedszija), the father of the main villain from “Taken,” the guy who wanted to sell Kim into the sex trade. He wants revenge on the man who did the world a favor when he killed Murad’s son. Bryan, Kim, and Lenore end up in Istanbul, where Murad conveniently has a cavalry of personality-less goons to woefully attempt his bidding and die at the hands of the most unlikely action hero of the new millennium.
Photo credit: Fox
The first act of “Taken 2” is a deadly dull affair that intercuts between the Mills’ attempts at domestic bliss – there’s even an awful “Parent Trap”-esque attempt on Kim’s part to get her parents back together as we all know that nothing mends a broken family like being kidnapped in Turkey – and the nefarious types planning their half-assed revenged scheme. While this act is boring, at least your eyes won’t be rolling as much as they do for the rest of the film as the action in “Taken 2” would make most ten-year-olds argue at its logic. At one point, Kim is throwing grenades from Istanbul rooftops to try and pinpoint Bryan’s location (the louder he can hear it, the closer she is), and that’s actually not the least believable moment in the film.
“Taken 2” goes from just bad to somewhat offensive in the way it treats its violence, which has clearly been cut together to get the film a coveted PG-13. Not only do some characters in the climax die in ways that the audience can’t even tell what’s going on because of the rating cut but the film’s overall cartoon approach to violence drains it of any possible impact. This is the kind of film in which a character can pass out from blood loss as she hangs upside down and not even have a mark on her face in the next scene. Or the kind of film in which car chases are shot in such a way that we don’t even see who’s in the “bad car.” They’re just stunt men waiting to crash. It’s all so silly. And don’t get me started on the clearly-for-European audiences visualizations of Americans, who are either golfing, talking about basketball, driving SUVs, or drinking milkshakes.
Photo credit: Fox
I could have gone with it if “Taken 2” had embraced its silly and been nothing more than a B-movie slice of pulp action. But the film is stunningly melodramatic right from its opening scene of an emotional funeral for the scumbags that Bryan shot in the last movie. Given how many similar thugs he mows down in “Taken 2,” one could presume that the plot foundation has been laid for “Taken 3.” Although if that happens, I may need to start rooting for the bad guys just to end this franchise.