Liam Neeson as Bryan. Click on the 'Play' button above to watch the trailer for Taken 2.
By Simon Miraudo
October 3, 2012
(Republished March 4, 2013)
Olivier Megaton proves with Taken 2 that he lacks the artistic finesse and subtle understanding of character that predecessor Pierre Morel barely demonstrated in the oddly adored original. This Luc Besson produced sequel is a laughably slapdash concoction of steely Liam Neeson speeches, stolen cues from the Drive soundtrack, poorly cut fight scenes, and a healthy heaping of xenophobia. Worst of all, it erroneously believes the viewer is somehow invested in the mythology of the Taken series, and that we are desperate for some connective tissue between instalments beyond Liam Neeson informing foreigners he is about to kill them, and then carrying out that promise. Taken 2 screenwriters Besson and Robert Mark Kamen spend so much time laying pointless, tactless narrative track, I wondered if they were employing some of its central character's famed torture methods.
On our second go around, retired secret agent Bryan Mills (Neeson) isn’t trying to recover his not-at-all-convincing teenager daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) from sex-traffickers, but rather escape captivity from the vengeance-seeking relatives of the six hundred Albanians he murdered previously. His ex-wife (Famke Janssen) has also been nabbed, and it's up to Kim to locate the two of them in shady Istanbul (where everyone is untrustworthy - because they don't speak English!). Before all of that transpires, we get to see Mills clumsily blend into the world of Los Angeles, train his little lady up for her driving test, and hang out with his bros at a casual barbeque. Liam Neeson is a fine thespian, and there are many cinematic scenarios in which he thrives, but, dare I say it, his ‘particular set of skills’ does not include sassily telling a friend "not to go there." Similarly not in his wheelhouse: hanging out casually with bros.
Rade Serbedzija plays the father of Marko, the gent who Bryan electrocuted until his heart exploded in the first Taken. Needless to say, he wants revenge, and he emphatically states as much atop his son's open grave. This doesn't exactly pave the way for a sensitive depiction of Albanian blood oaths, a’la Joshua Marston's The Forgiveness of Blood, though that’s not what we want here anyway. The original Taken didn’t feature anything that even remotely resembled sensitivity. It was an entertaining and occasionally inventive action flick that was unrelenting in its violence, and extremely forgiving of its star’s American accent. There was no pretence (besides the cynicism that comes with any project churned out of Besson's production line). Taken 2 is a lazy retread that never comes close to being as resourceful or brutal. It presumes we won’t notice two songs cribbed from Drive – and used to underline moments that aren’t nearly as creatively composed – or that the gore has been significantly toned down to secure a lighter classification. That is pretension.
Taken 2 is available on DVD and Blu-ray from March 6, 2013.