Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills
Maggie Grace as Kim
Famke Janssen as Lenore
Rade Serbedzija as Murad
Leland Orser as Sam
Luenell as Bertha
Laura Bryce as Sunset Surfer
Kevork Malikyan as Durmaz
Aclan Bates as Sheik's Aide
Directed by Olivier Megaton
After the huge success of the Luc Besson produced and written "Taken," a revenge thriller that solidified now 60-year-old actor Liam Neeson as a bonafide action star, making a sequel was pretty much a no-brainer. This time, they've turned the simple premise into a reverse revenge thriller where the father of one of the guys killed by Neeson's special agent Bryan Mills in the first movie comes after him and his family.
Just like the original movie, this one starts with the quieter family stuff, and this time around, Mills has a much better relationship with his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) as he comes by to gives his still-teen daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) driving lessons. Kim's growing up fast and already has a boyfriend, which doesn't go over well with the world's most overprotective father. Part of why the first movie worked so well was because it spent time setting up believable family dynamics that helped the viewer to relate to Mills in order to ease him into using his special skills to torture and kill the people who kidnapped Kim. It worked, so there's no reason to break away from the same formula this time.
That said, the sequel is made to look like it takes place on a far more global scale with sweeping aerial shots establishing various locations, but despite beautiful shots of Albania and Paris, it mostly takes place in Los Angeles and Istanbul, which is where Bryan has taken his once estranged ex-wife and daughter for a bonding vacation. Once there, they find themselves being followed and eventually both Bryan and Lenore are captured leaving Kim to have to save them.
Neeson's Bryan Mills has become the type of character Clint Eastwood might have played thirty or forty years ago, one that's always serious, not cracking jokes or spouting one-liners, but just taking care of business in the quickest and most efficient way possible. He spends much of this sequel growling orders to his daughter as if she's another special agent rather than a young woman who went through the ordeal of being kidnapped a few years prior. This does get ridiculous at times, especially when he has Kim throwing hand grenades to help determine his location, which makes little sense on any level. It's surprising Maggie Grace can still pull off playing a teenager as well as she does here, while Famke Jannsen takes the obligatory damsel in distress role and they're both a lot more involved this time around.
Although the stakes might seem higher with Bryan's whole family being in danger, it doesn't really feel that way because we already know Bryan is so competent he's going to be able to get them through anything. Because of this, he has been made superhuman, as if he can never get hurt. The sequel also has a much more defined villain in Rade Serbedzija, another strong dramatic actor on par with Neeson, which allows for some terrific scenes between them.
The PG-13 violence still seems like a bit of a cop-out considering how violent the original movie was, but Olivier Megaton does a much better job directing this than he did his previous two films, "The Transporter 3" and "Colombiana." There's a good chance he's working from a better script than those movies, because Besson knows how many people are anticipating Mills' return. The action is generally up to snuff and well-choreographed, but Megaton's quick editing isn't quite as elegant as other graduates of the Luc Besson Filmmaking School, such as original director Pierre Morel or Louis Letterier.
When one realizes how much Luc Besson's movies influenced the Bourne movies and how many action movies were influenced by that in turn, a car chase through the streets of Istanbul with Kim at the wheel just doesn't feel as exciting as it might have been, say five years ago, because so many action movies have used the same tricks Besson perfected decades ago.
The Bottom Line:
There isn't a lot of new ground being broken in what ends up being a perfectly respectable action sequel and little more. It may not appease every fan's desire for a sequel as good as the original, but it also has enough solid action thrills to not feel like a completely offensive money grab. Even the parts that get ridiculous only work because of what Liam Neeson brings to the mix.