‘Taken 2’ (2012) Movie Review

Liam Neeson in Taken 2
Liam Neeson in Taken 2

Photo: 20th Century Fox

I walked into Taken 2 with very low expectations only to learn they should have been lower. This is the film we all thought the first would be, only to come away saying, That actually wasn’t all that bad. What’s worse is Taken 2 doesn’t fail due to the contrived premise.

By merely showing up we’ve accepted the idea that once again Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is going to have to save his family after they’ve been kidnapped. The idea was made plausible enough the first time, despite its ridiculous set up. But for as ridiculous as the last film was, with Mills able to track his daughter down in a city of millions of people, you haven’t seen ridiculous until you’ve seen Taken 2. Grenades, steam signals and circles on maps are just the start of the hilarity.

From the beginning our timeline is thrown off as we’re seeing the father (Rade Serbedzija) of one of the kidnappers and sex traffickers that kidnapped Bryan’s 17-year-old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), burying all the people Bryan killed in the first film. Before throwing a handful of dirt on his son’s casket, he vows revenge and our storyline is set. But slow down, we don’t want to get too involved too quickly. After all, director Olivier Megaton is known for his delicate character driven dramas from Transporter 3 and Colombiana. So sit back and rest a bit, we have some more setting up to do.

Without addressing the events of the first film, we immediately learn Bryan’s ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) is now separated from her most recent husband for reasons we’re never privy to, Kim has failed her driver’s test multiple times and has a boyfriend and now Bryan and Lenore appear to be getting along.

The problem is, as far as we can tell we are picking up right where the last film left off, but how can that be? Has Kim actually moved on with her life so soon after being kidnapped and sold to the highest bidder? She’s managed to fail the driver’s test not once but twice and has a boyfriend so more than a couple months must have passed… right? Meanwhile Lenore is getting divorced and there certainly wasn’t any indication that was on the horizon at the end of the last film.

I guess it takes time for a vengeful father to work up a portfolio on the man that killed his son and wiped out an entire sex trafficking organization, but by all appearances it seems he’s on top of it so I have no explanation for the timeline here. Nevertheless, we’ll move on.

Even though Lenore and her hubby are on the outs, they had a family trip planned so they could attempt to mend their relationship. Well, this jerk backs out, cancels all plans and leaves the ladies crying and alone. You guessed it, Bryan steps in, “Why don’t you come to Istanbul with me?” Bryan has a job there and they could just join him afterward. Naturally Lenore is all, “What? Really? Can we? Oh I don’t know… we’ll think about it.” Guess what, they’re going and the shit hits the fan when they get there.

Mad dad and his cronies are in Istanbul waiting for the happy, broken family and just as Lenore and Bryan are getting all cozy, BOOM! They strike! Bryan and Lenore are captured while Kim goes for a dip at the hotel pool. One thing leads to another and Kim is eventually throwing hand grenades all over Istanbul so Bryan can help her track his whereabouts with intersecting circles on a map.

As laugh-out-loud stupid as all of that is, nothing is better than Bryan’s advice to his daughter as she is about to start running across rooftops, throwing grenades and looking for him. He says, “Kim… Be casual.” BE CASUAL? This teenager (I’m assuming she’s supposed to be 18 now, but she still might be 17) is about to leave a hotel in Istanbul, where she has been all of two days, with grenades, a gun and a map with circles on it created using the sound of grenade blasts and her father’s rambling as a compus. Oh, did I mention she is currently barefoot and in a bikini? Yeah, casual, get right on that.

The whole film is like this, just one stupid scenario after another. It’s amazing to me they were ever able to convince Neeson to come back for a second one based on this script, but his knack for sniffing out quality seems to have ended long ago with the likes of Unknown, Wrath of the Titans and Battleship now scarring his resume. At this point it’s more of a wonder he decided to star in Joe Carnahan’s The Grey above anything else.

And then we come to Mr. Megaton. If you decide you’d like to use either Transporter 3 or Colombiana to prop up this guy’s career feel free, but Taken 2 is hack work at its very worst. After mining the soundtrack for Drive by including not only College’s “A Real Hero”, but also injecting The Chromatics’ “Tick of the Clock” into a late action sequence that couldn’t have felt any more out of place, he then takes to scraping Alex Claire’s “Too Close” from the Internet Explorer commercials for the closing credits. At that point I wasn’t sure why he didn’t just have a giant finger come on screen and use Apple finger gestures to cut from one scene to the next.

“But what about the action?” you ask. After all, that’s what made the first one fun to watch. Neeson just went around shooting everyone. Shoot first ask questions later. Well, sorry, but these are some of the worst action sequences you’re going to see. Neeson looks like he can hardly move his 60-year-old frame fast enough and the whiz-bang editing isn’t doing him any favors, nor is Megaton becoming the latest director to adopt the lens flare effect to his feature.

And I absolutely cannot leave without mentioning two moments where Neeson’s character makes a phone call in the middle of scenes. One, while he’s surrounded by guys with guns aimed at him and one aimed at his ex-wife and another just after he and Kim have literally crashed through the gates of the American Embassy. These are two of the stupidest scenes I have seen all year, one because he isn’t beaten over the head as soon as he brings out the phone and the second because he isn’t surrounded by hundreds of soldiers armed to the teeth.

Every step of the way, while watching this film I was either cringing or laughing or both. It’s a mess and I would never suggest anyone watch it. If you want a ridiculous Luc Besson-produced feature that is dumb, yet fun, check out Lockout on Blu-ray. It will save you some money and even give you a slightly better cinematic experience.

Taken 2 is a heartbeat away from being awful. Out of the kindness of my heart and due to the laughter it provided me I couldn’t fail it entirely, though it probably deserves just that.


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