Taken 2 Movie Review
Liam Neeson is great as always, but unfortunately Taken 2 is a disappointing sequel to one of the best action movies in recent memory.
Usually when a movie is released in January, it is most likely a crappy one that has no chance of true success. However, that was not the case when Taken was finally released stateside in January 2009, because it ended up being a sleeper hit with a $226 million worldwide gross and then became a cult phenomenon. Taken can also be attributed to the redefinition of Liam Neeson as an A-list action star, for since then he has mostly been in successful action films. So, if a ridiculously awesome movie becomes successful, does it warrant a sequel? Well, not necessarily, but here we are with Taken 2 now in theaters. Neeson returns as ex-government agent Bryan Mills along with Maggie Grace and Famke Janssen as his daughter and wife respectively, in which all three are now threatened by the vengeful family members of those who Bryan killed in the first film. In the end, is Taken 2 an intense revenge story that successfully continues where the original left off, or should these criminals have left Bryan alone?
Some time after the events of Taken, family members of those killed in the conflict surrounding ex-CIA operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) – who eventually rescued his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) from those men – are having anger-filled thoughts at the mass funeral for those they had lost. Murad Hoxha (Rade Serbedzija), the employer of these men, is especially mournful since his son was the one who Bryan tortured and left to die in an electric chair. He then announces that they won’t stop until they capture all three members of the Mills family and exact their revenge. In the meantime, Bryan is still living a life apart from his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) and his estranged wife Lenore (Famke Janssen). One day after having to deal with issues with both Kim and Lenore, he tells them that he has to cancel a family trip due to work assignments he has to take care of in Istanbul, but he invites them to come spend time with him there once he is done. They then surprise him after he is led to believe that they couldn’t come, and the three then begin to rekindle their relationships together as they seek ways to spend time with each other in the city. However, soon the vengeful sex traffickers discover the location of the Mills family, and soon Bryan realizes that they will all have fight for survival against the men who have come to bring a horrific end to their lives.
To be completely frank, I was very excited to see this film. Nowadays, I have been trying to temper my expectations in order to come out of films with a more positive reaction; but since I loved the first film how could I not be excited to see a sequel? However, I am sad to say that Taken 2 ended up being a grand disappointment for me. I suppose I would be a hypocrite if I said that Taken was a realistic movie, because it did have its share of ridiculousness, but at the same time plenty of its moments were shockingly intense and gritty while still remaining a fun movie throughout. Here the story is just ridiculous in execution, and although there a couple of intense moments, Taken 2 is a much more forgettable and notably less fun movie than the first.
Here’s the thing, though- the story gives some time for Liam Neeson to do what his character does best, and isn’t that what we all came for? Once the credits rolled, however, and the action faded from memory, I began to piece together the elements of the storyline, and then I realized that this isn’t exactly Luc Besson’s best script. The one major issue I had with Taken 2 is the fact that the entire family is included in this story. I understand that the writers needed to change things up- no one wants a rehash of the first flick- but nonetheless Taken 2 is flawed in its execution.
First of all, the first 20-30 minutes are slow. This is understandable since, as an amateur screenwriter, I know that exposition is necessary. But it still dragged on more than I hoped. When the film finally picks up, it undoubtedly becomes more fun, but soon the realism and grit from Taken becomes lost. While the first film focused almost entirely on Bryan Mills saving his daughter and was a consistently awesome ride, this story felt more convoluted and disappointing because there is actually more action involving Kim than Bryan. It’s more ridiculous than enjoyable. I won’t tell you how dumb the already infamous “grenade scene” is in this film, but let’s just say that for about a good 15 minutes of the movie, we’re shown Bryan coaching Kim on how to survive. Like I have said, I understand why this was done for the story, it’s just not exciting.
The script as a whole is just a mess. Dialogue is awkward at times, and as I noted earlier, the story doesn’t come together logically in the end – which I know is a somewhat invalid argument for action films, but it really brings Taken 2 down a notch. The last key issue here is that the villain and his cronies are just idiotic. Sure, their motives for revenge are solid, but the leader is not threatening in any way whatsoever. Mainly, he just threatens the characters, and then leaves while his brainless henchmen do his dirty work. I’ve said unenthusiastic things about villains from various films released throughout the year, but unfortunately Taken 2 gets it the worst. Between the actor’s terrible performance and a script that did nothing to truly convince me of his treachery, he is undoubtedly the worst villain I have seen all year. Up until now, the villain from Lockout (ironically another Luc Besson production) held this title, but at least he actually got his hands dirty by killing innocent people. This one? Nothing… nothing at all. In the end, there is some degree of fun to be had in Taken 2, but it is a very disappointing, unexciting and poorly written sequel to an awesome movie.
2012 has become a year in which a lot of crappy films featured great actors – in that sense, such stars are the main reasons to see said films. Why would anyone go see this movie if Liam Neeson wasn’t the star? Taken was the film that revived Liam Neeson’s career as an A-list action star, and the film hinged on his stellar performance and action sequences. Conversely, he is saddled with awkward dialogue and lesser action scenes in the sequel, but he’s still the best thing Taken 2 has going for it. But this is to be expected. So how did the other actors and actresses fare? Maggie Grace has never been my favorite actress, and although she’s ok in Taken 2 she definitely tends to overact. I just don’t really care for her, and her role in this film doesn’t convince me that she is on the right track towards stardom. One never knows though; Anna Kendrick rose to fame as an Oscar-nominated actress after having a minor role in Twilight, so Maggie Grace could do the same given time. Famke Janssen is fine as well, but I was disappointed in the direction that the script takes her character because pretty soon all she has to do in this film is continuously gasp, look frightened and have all assortments of worried looks on her face. It makes sense given her situation, but after a while she just gets a little boring to watch. I’ve already stated that the worst offender is Rade Serbedzija. For those of you who have no idea who he is, Rade is the “nice coat” homeless guy from Batman Begins (Ed. note: als0 the bad guy from Mission Impossible 2). I feel bad that that is the only role I could remember him for because I can see his potential as an actor, but he should keep Taken 2 off his resume because he turns in an awful performance. Honestly, throughout this film my friends and I weren’t threatened at all by his character – mostly we just ended up laughing at him because he looks like The Most Interesting Man in the World from the Dos Equis commercials. In the end, if Rade gets nominated for a Razzie, I won’t be surprised.
Solid direction really matters when it comes to filming action scenes, because in recent years a lot of directors have tried to imitate the Paul Greengrass style of shaky cam cinematography and editing, but to no avail. Director Olivier Megaton attempts to do so as well, but unfortunately he has once again proven that he cannot direct action. Sure, there are a couple of fun and intense sequences that are cohesively framed, but otherwise the action in Taken 2 is poorly filmed. In the film’s main fight scenes, the camera cuts to a new angle in less than a second which is confusing enough, but this can be corrected if the camera is panned out as to let us actually see what’s going on. That’s what Paul Greengrass did, and now he has some of the best action films of all-time under his belt (it’s also one of the reasons why Haywire and The Dark Knight Rises are two of the best action films of the year). For some reason though, Olivier Megaton must think that if you zoom in super close to the actors the action becomes more intense, and he can’t be more dead wrong. Since he committed to the style, Taken 2 is a poorly filmed, non-cohesively edited action film. I wish I could say more positive things about the music, but unfortunately it is a generic placeholder score. Honestly, it could have been cut and pasted from any number of other action films.
This movie doesn’t change the fact that Liam Neeson is still one of my favorite actors. He is such a great action star that if I was chosen to be the director of The Expendables 3, Liam Neeson would be my first choice for the newcomers in the cast. Still, it’s a shame that while Taken 2 is kind of fun to watch while in the theater, in hindsight it’s a rather incomprehensible and poorly executed sequel to one of the best action films in recent times. It just ended up being a wild cash grab. Does this mean you won’t enjoy Taken 2? It’s hard to say, as us critic types tend to be “tougher” on most films than the general public. Nonetheless, we film fanatics just crave cinematic experiences that truly mean something, and unfortunately Taken 2 is not much more than a fast buck for Luc Besson and his crew.