Release Date: October 4th, 2012 (UK); October 5th, 2012 (US)
Genre: Action; Crime; Thriller
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen
For a moderately more age-wise gentleman — compared to that of an average action star — Liam Neeson carries out his fair share of ass-kickings in Taken 2. This would not be a problem on the following bases: the film in question is a comedy and/or parody of action, such as RED; Neeson gets lucky once or twice, perhaps via enemy mistake; Neeson has capable assistance… or at the very least, assistance. Unfortunately none of these three apply in Taken 2, and along with a far too coincidental and convoluted plot, the novelty of a 60-year-old Liam Neeson overcoming gang of thugs after gang of thugs has worn off a tad since 2008.
Set primarily in Istanbul and sometime after the events of its predecessor, Taken 2 sees Bryan Mills, his estranged wife Lenore and daughter Kim, once again the targets of a group of criminals led by the man whose son Mills killed previously. After the trio find themselves separated and hunted by the vicious mobsters, it is down to Mills to rescue his family and put an end to the terror they have suffered at the hands of the Albanian gang.
90 percent of the problems which Taken 2 faces stem from the derisory plot that the film is ungratefully saddled with. Firstly, it is far too coincidental. Suspension of disbelief is a key factor in enjoying a film, but when a film is trying to be taken (ahem) as seriously as Taken 2 is, there has to be a degree of realism surrounding it. Instead, a number of events just happen to occur at the correct time, without justification. For instance, near the beginning of the film Neeson’s character Bryan Mills just happens to find his estranged wife upset at her house after her partner just happened to cancel their significant plans a few moments before. Okay, perhaps this case of coincidence is just a one-off — it is possible, right? Fast-forward a few scenes and, separated by the Atlantic Ocean, Neeson is in the midst of leaving his wife and daughter a message on their phone when, out of nowhere, they appear behind him. When a film is delivering by way of captivating its audience, inconsequential issues such as these would not be brought to fruition in any way. Taken 2 struggles to live up to the pulsating levels set by the first film, and therefore the viewer has nothing better to do than be distracted by coincidence. Did I mention that Neeson’s daughter Kim, played by Maggie Grace, has a squabble with her father over the importance of driving lessons at the start of proceedings? No reason.
The film also fails to place its characters in sensible scenarios, resulting in not only the story feeling unrealistic, but also the characters being perceived as slightly hokey. At one point, Kim is throwing loud, destructive grenades around the busiest city in Turkey, yet somehow manages to draw very little attention to herself. For someone who got caught by criminals after hiding under a bed(!) in Taken, those are some hefty stealth abilities. The illogical nature of the plot is surprising as the writer, Luc Besson, also wrote the screenplay for the first film (in what looks set to become a series), where goings-on made sense and more often than not had a reason behind them. There are illogical and puzzling tendencies aplenty this time around though, including a scene involving apparent intentional friendly fire which, again, makes absolutely no sense when taking into account the opening few minutes of the film.
As mentioned just a moment ago, Taken 2 is written by the same individual who wrote the gritty, hard-hitting and pleasantly surprising Taken — Luc Besson. In Taken, Besson created a visceral story with simplicity and some of the most quotable dialogue in recent cinema history. In Taken 2, he has recreated Taken with very little of that peppered around the story. The novelty of the first film was the rebirth of Liam Neeson as an action star, and a pretty believable one at that. Sadly, this novelty seems to have vanished in the sequel and Neeson does not quite come across as affirming and in control as he did previously. That is not to say that he — nor any of the other cast members — are particularly poor in their roles, rather they all provide solid performances. This time around however, there is hardly anything memorable about their portrayals.
The film is not without some merit. The action scenes are efficiently choreographed and succinctly delivered throughout, providing just about all the entertainment there is to be had. An action film’s number one priority is to deliver enjoyable fight and chase sequences, and Taken 2 does that. It also looks terrific, with the contrast between the colourful wealthy parts of Istanbul, to the grey, gravelly sections of the criminal underworld, adding an immersing setting to the film. Director Olivier Megaton does not set out to make a bad film and in all honesty Taken 2 is not a horrible, unwatchable mess — nowhere near that. It just could have been a whole lot better.
It is fitting that the song played over the credits is one associated with a television advert, because Taken 2 essentially feels like an extended advert for Taken. At its very best, the film is little more than a run-of-the-mill action flick.
Towards the end, Liam Neeson rebuffs a question with, “Because I’m tired of it all.” Me too Liam.