The first Taken, released in early 2008, was a big hit. It took an utterly ridiculous concept (man’s daughter is kidnapped, man happens to be CIA agent, man travels world to get her back by himself), combined it with a lead actor whose career needed a kick-start in Liam Neeson, and managed to turn it into a largely enjoyable action movie. This mostly is the case with Taken 2, largely because it’s basically the exact same film.
Liam Neeson reprises his role as Bryan Mills, a no-nonsense ex-CIA agent that is obsessively detail-oriented (this trait brings a lot of humor to the film, surprisingly). He shares custody of his daughter Kim (played by Maggie Grace) with his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen).
Bryan works in security, and after the events of the last film, is regarded as one of the top people in his profession. His job takes him to exotic locales, and now he’s headed to Istanbul. He decides that he ought to take his daughter and ex-wife with him on this trip, so the three of them can re-connect as a family. Of course this wouldn’t be an issue normally, but when the revenge-seeking relatives of the people he killed the first time around turn up in Istanbul at the same time, things get really complicated. Instead of the daughter being taken this time though, Mom and Dad are kidnapped.
This movie, much like its predecessor, picks up in quality once the action starts. Olivier Megaton paces things really well as a director, and there are many moments of high tension throughout. The action scenes are high adrenaline and very entertaining despite the fact that the hand to hand combat scenes aren’t filmed in ways that are pleasing to the viewer. Expect to see a lot of shaky camera work and hear a lot of aggressive grunts in these parts of the movie. The rest of the action sequences (there’s everything from a car chase through the US embassy to rooftop gun fights) are very well executed and are easily the best parts of the film.
Thankfully the movie is jam-packed with action, because everything else is really sub-par. The only actor that really manages to turn in a good performance is Neeson. Grace and Janssen are really nothing more than annoying sidebars, and everyone else in the movie is literally a brainless generic henchman. Even the main villain lacks personality after the first 50 minutes of the movie. Perhaps some of the performances come from the script, which is to say that it’s not very good. The dialogue between the characters is incredibly clichéd, almost to the point where some characters speak exclusively in catchphrases.
However, with these flaws, Taken 2 is a very entertaining popcorn movie. You’ll most likely overlook a lot of the technical issues due to the sheer joy of seeing Liam Neeson take on an entire country with basically his fists and a briefcase. It’s not the best movie I’ve ever seen by any stretch, but I am really glad I saw it.
I give Taken 2 a 7 out of 10. Go see it as a matinee, or wait until the Blu-ray releases.
Trailer Reviews: Trailers for the following films were packaged with my screening: Les Miserables (2/5 anticipation), Identity Thief (3/5), Alex Cross (0/5), Skyfall (4.5/5)