Taken was the unlikely hit of 2008 – dark, brutal and adrenaline-pumping, it managed to plausibly convey the apprehension and desperate determination of a father capable of anything to save his daughter. Luckily enough for the premise of the film, this particular father turned out to be no other than CIA agent Bryan Mills – a man with a “specific set of skills” … and the rest is history! Now, four years later, the expected sequel has landed in cinemas, but the enthusiasts hyped up by the original might be in for an unpleasant surprise.
Unfortunately, Taken 2 doesn’t share any of the genuine intensity and urgent pursuit of its predecessor. It struggles with a tedious been-there-done-that-script, which is abundant in banal action scenes and stereotype-enforcing characters. Alas, one look at the poster, featuring a still of a focused leather-jacketed Liam Neeson on a background of damsels in distress, pursuit and captivity scenes as well as Neeson himself preparing to reprise the role of the Punisher, hints that originality is not the strong side of the film. Admittedly, a sequel which features the first-now type of tagline framework (“First they took his daughter. Now they are coming for him.”), usually serves to set the scene for a cliché-packed experience, and sadly Taken 2 is no exception.
And this is not even the worst part! Total Film magazine puts it in a very blunt manner with the summary that “The only place this film has been taken to is the cutting room.” Indeed, Taken 2 appears to be so edited that not only is there a perpetual confusion as to what is happening, but for most of the film it seems that 60-year-old Neeson knocks a bunch of his opponents out with one blow. Apparently the Force is still with him although he was relieved of Jedi duty more than a decade ago! To add to the spoof-like feeling of the film, it is obvious that in the scenes where he is not fighting, the Irish actor is barely standing on his feet, which can probably be attributed to the fact that he is a senior citizen after all! If we manage to look past all this however, the Hollywood star still delivers a fairly convincing Bryan Mills, if not as compelling as the one from the first movie. As for the rest of the cast, no-one shines with a memorable enough performance so as to deserve a mention, except maybe for the baddie of the film (Rade Sherbedgia). Although artificially portrayed as a villain with no layers to his persona, he still brings a certain colour (literally and metaphorically) to the film. “Ve will haf our rewenge!” declares the supposed Albanian at his sons’ funeral, and away they go.
So, in order to be completely fair, it should be noted that the film actually has some elements which make it worth considering. Firstly, choosing Istanbul with all its winding streets and colourful markets for a setting of the film adds a distinguishable flavour. It is always more interesting to play hide-and-seek (with guns!) in the labyrinth-like cities of the East, where chases turn into unique adventures. Secondly, exploiting the benefits of the aforementioned location, a particularly interesting scene involving Maggie Grace’s maturing Kim (well, it was about time…she is twenty-freakin’-nine!), a tamagotchi-like mobile phone, a map, a shoelace and a couple of grenades, proves a very thrilling and intriguing moment in the movie. Finally, considering that Luc Besson is the big name behind Taken 2, you can imagine that an exhilarating car chase scene takes place. Yet…we have seen him do better! If we go back to what Besson is capable of (Helloooo…Taxi!!!), it’s like Herbie challenging Knight Rider in a drag race. This, of course, might have something to do with the choice of director – Besson swaps Pierre Morel (District 13, Taken) with Olivier Megaton (Colombiana, Transporter 3), apparently not having learnt from the disastrous outcome of Megaton’s previous endeavours. So, Pierre Morel in the case of Taken 3? I think so!!!
Although Taken 2 doesn’t wow with anything new and original, it might still serve to kill (LOL!) an hour and a half if the rest of your movie library has gone bust! After all, regardless of its many flaws, by earning $50 million in its opening weekend, it still scored the third highest October opening ever (Say whaaaaat?). Plus, it might not even prove to be the worst superdaddy-trying-to-save-daughter-from-bad-guys flick of the year, with Nicolas Cage’s Stolen and Sylvester Stalone’s Bullet to the Head coming up. In any case, if you want a taste of the “real thing”, you should definitely go back to Taken № 1, or possibly go for the similarly plotted Patriot Games (the 1992 Jack Ryan-based film starring Harrison Ford)– can’t go wrong with a classic!
2/5 Marvelous points