Bottom Line: Taken 2 is a shrine to the gods of predictability.
Directed by: Olivier Megaton
Starring: Famke Janssen, Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Rade Sherbedgia
Liam Neeson is to the action genre what John Wayne was to the western genre, or Uncle Sam to patriotism. When we come across ads for his films, we seem to miss the title deliberately, just to focus on whether his “I want YOU to watch my next movie” expression is convincing enough. With seeing more of Neeson’s films, I’ve grown quite fond of him. In recent memory, Taken is one of his most impressive works. I was sweating bullets from all the adrenaline-heavy fun. On the other hand, the film was trashy in numerous ways. Taken 2 finds few ways to thrill an audience. Every trashy quality that was perhaps a passable misstep in the initial work is only “taken” above and beyond in the sequel. Bad acting, cheesy writing, you name it. The one good thing, in case you’re wondering, is that you don’t need to have any knowledge of the predecessor in order to sit down and watch this sequel. Because if you’ve seen any action movie made within the last decade or two, Taken 2 will seem like a theatrically released “Mad Lib”–silly (even when not initially intended) and downright formulaic.
If there wasn’t a number in the title, I wouldn’t even be referring to this as a sequel. The script is lazy beyond belief, chugging out a plot that we already saw in the first movie. The antagonist here is the son of the villain who was killed off in the first film, supposing that makes much difference. Unless you count that infinitesimal scratch, the only seemingly noticeable deviation between the two stories is that this one is set in Istanbul, Turkey, as opposed to Paris, France. In other words, this is a movie that does everything remakes do, while claiming to be a sequel. Am I supposed to award extra points for being so humble? Didn’t think so. It gets even weaker, with exaggerations flying left and right. The film opens up with Bryan (Liam Neeson) approaching his ex-wife (Famke Janssen). She informs him about everything that has happened to their daughter (Maggie Grace); every time he hears of her growing independence, he looks like he’s about to suffer a heart attack. Even his “helicopter parent” character is ridiculously over-the-top here. We learn that he has planted a tracking chip into her cell phone because he admits it to her face. During the first twenty minutes, he’s the single most unstoppable threat his daughter will ever know. It’s predictable because of the constant foreshadowing that as soon as she’s out of his sight, a plot has been formulated to kidnap all three of them. Yeah sure. As if you can take an invulnerable, intelligent character and his family hostage, and expect to keep him as an eternal prisoner. Perhaps the villains themselves aren’t aware, but those watching are.
Taken 2 is a quotidian experience, the kind that requires shutting off every cell in the human mind entirely. But even with that knowledge (or a lack thereof), it’s difficult to understand what is going through the characters’ minds. Bryan could have acted in several ways to prevent the abduction, an occurrence during film’s former half, but he’s infuriated with his ex-wife, and their marital concerns prompt him to dismiss those possibilities. Yet when her life is threatened directly, we see him well up in tears. Huh? I will give the film points in one fairly significant area. The action sequences alone don’t save the film, but the technical style during those moments manages to make it somewhat watchable. Energetic sound effects, occasionally low-key visuals, and rapid splicing are all resurrected from the predecessor. In all other respects, however, I wouldn’t be surprised if the film managed to left my memory before the……wait a minute, which film was I reviewing?