Greetings again from the darkness. Four years ago Taken was a huge, surprise hit filled with heart-pumping action and a thrilling plot. The sequel boasts a budget more than three times the size of the original, the same key cast members (especially Liam Neeson), the same screenwriter (Luc Besson), and a similar type story. So why doesn’t it work this time? The answer is inferior direction, a lack of surprises, and too many absurd moments to count.
Liam Neeson returns as former CIA-stud Bryan Mills, father to Kim (Maggie Grace) whom he previously rescued from Albanian sex-traffickers in Paris. Famke Janssen also returns as Leonore, Kim’s mother and Bryan’s ex. Somehow, Leonore and Kim think it’s a great idea to surprise Bryan with a visit while he is on a security job in Istanbul. Yes, right next door to Albania (note sex traffickers). Since the film opens with a mass funeral depicting the burial of all the guys Bryan killed in the first movie, and Rade Serbedzija vows revenge, it comes as little surprise when Bryan and Leonore are “taken”.
What is surprising is that the filmmakers attempt to turn Maggie Grace into an action hero. Yes, gangly Maggie Grace who we saw hiding under the bed in the first film. This time, unable to pass the driving test to obtain her license, she transforms into master stunt driver and Olympic rooftop sprinter … while deploying grenades with Swiss perfect timing. I should also mention that in real life Maggie Grace is 29 years old. She was supposedly 17 in the first movie and 18-19 here. Yes, one of my movie pet peeves.
In a film like this, we can always hope the action sequences cover-up the ludicrous script (see most Jason Statham movies). Unfortunately, we are abused with chopped up, hyper-kinetic camera work that we often can’t tell who is punching who are whose gun is firing. These action shots make the fight scenes in Batman Begins or the Bourne movies appear slo-motion. It’s a waste of Liam Neeson and a potential stellar bad guy in Mr. Serdebzija (The Saint). The final irritant is Janssen’s role as Leonore. She is reduced to sobbing and passing out (sometimes while wearing a hood). Just another waste. The director of this mess is Olivier Megaton, who also directed Columbiana and Transporter 3.
There are two types of sequels: those that build on the best points of the first and those that simply cash in. Clearly, this one falls into the cashing-in column. Don’t expect any long-lived quotes from this sequel. It has no particular set of skills.
SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you are addicted to action films, no matter the quality OR you enjoy macho man Liam Neeson when he is in full assault mode
SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you are expecting a smart, crisp action thriller in the same vein as the original OR you prefer to avoid the goofyness of Maggie Grace, action star
watch the trailer: