Should I Watch..? Taken 2
What's the big deal?
Taken 2 is an action thriller film released in 2012 and is directed by Olivier Megaton, taking over from Pierre Morel. It is the second instalment of the Taken series and was followed by Taken 3 in 2015. The film features Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace and Rade Šerbedžija and was produced and co-written by Luc Besson once again. The film concerns retired CIA operative Bryan Mills who is targeted by mobsters wishing to avenge those killed in the previous movie whilst working as a bodyguard in Istanbul, Turkey. Despite largely negative reviews, the film was still successful at the box office with global takings in excess of $376 million - the highest takings in the series so far.
What's it about?
At a funeral in Albania, mob boss Murad Hoxha is burying his dead son Marko - who was memorably killed by former CIA operative Bryan Mills during an interrogation in Paris. Swearing revenge on his son's killers, Murad quickly discovers that the man responsible is working in Istanbul in Turkey and so, he sets off with numerous men loyal to him to bring Bryan back to Albania to face justice.
But Bryan is not alone - having finished working as a bodyguard for a sheik, Bryan has invited his daughter Kim and his ex-wife Lenore "Lennie" Mills-St. John to the city for some much needed family time. During a drive out into the city with Lennie, Bryan soon senses that something is wrong and as Murad's net closes in, his only hope is persuade his terrified daughter to come after them.
Lenore Mills-St. John
Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen*
Release Date (UK)
4th October, 2012
What's to like?
You'd be forgiven for thinking that you were watching a repeat if you're familiar with the first film. The film is an equally xenophobic, action-packed grunt-fest in which an aging Liam Neeson dispatches bad guys with carefully edited kung-fu and a gun which never misses. In fact, the only discernible difference I could spot was the change in location from Paris to Istanbul - and even then, only in the long shots as much of the film seems to take place in dingy cellars and sunshine-deprived alleyways.
True enough, Neeson's badass routine is as entertaining as it ever was despite not giving him such a memorable monologue as he had in the first film. As the daughter who is this time required to rescue Bryan (weirdly by lobbing grenades onto random roofs), Grace actually displays more talent than she did before as the unfortunate Kim while Janssen is as solid as she always is. When the film does get going, the action is as brutal as the reduced age restriction allows but it never grabs you the way it did in Taken. The car chase, so beloved in French productions ever since 1998's Taxi, is something of a disappointment - a learner driver would never learn how to do handbrake turns and the entire scene seemed to have been sabotaged by the PR department of Mercedes-Benz.
- The official soundtrack contains two songs - A Real Hero and Tick Of The Clock - that were also used in the 2011 film Drive.
- The film was originally shot as an R-rated production but edited down to a PG rating. This approach was also used for Taken 3 but the first film kept most of the more adult content in, giving it a 15-rating in the UK.
- The last shot in the end credits states "The making and legal distribution of this film supported over 14,000 jobs and involved over 600,000 work hours." This is the first movie to contain this message which is designed to educate viewers about the economic impact of the film and TV industry and the potential losses involved with video piracy.
What's not to like?
If only blatant product placement was the worst of its troubles. Taken 2 takes several liberties with common sense and reality such as Bryan's method of working out the route back to the kidnappers. And because Bryan is now your typically immortal American, the film lacks the tension the first film had in spades - even after receiving a beating from several kidnappers, he simply stands up to surrender with nary a scratch on him. The same can be said for the cars that are driven through a variety of obstacles but retain every detail of those distinctive Mercedes badges.
While the first film may have been a warning to US citizens about holidaying in Europe, Taken 2 underlines that fact with a thick marker pen. Every foreign language heard sounds threatening, every doorway and alleyway has at least one baddie with a gun waiting for you and even hotel staff will happily cooperate with an armed gang, judging by how easily the receptionist told the mobsters which room Kim was staying in. She couldn't even go for a swim in the hotel's pool without somebody spying on her! No wonder her father's so paranoid. Like Taken, there's no real joy in the film - it's dark and grim and that's the way it likes it. It's part of the reason I don't buy Neeson as an action star - he might look good blowing the baddies away but ask him to drop a one-liner and it would shatter the illusion. Bryan Mills is no John McClane, that's all I'm saying.
Should I watch it?
If you haven't seen the first Taken then this is a basic shooter that enables Liam Neeson to growl at some henchmen before scrapping his way to a happy ending. But if you have then prepare for a disappointment - the sequel merely offers up the same sort of film as before but with only minor changes to the set-up. There's not much satisfaction to be found watching Taken 2 which distracts with a lot of noise and fisticuffs but provides little to stay in the memory afterwards.
Great For: action junkies, Mercedes' sales figures, paranoid Americans
Not So Great For: Turkish tourism, Neeson's acting range, European holiday destinations
What else should I watch?
To be honest, Taken 2 was as unnecessary a sequel as I can recall seeing - there's not much wrong with the original Taken which has a more thrilling plot and doesn't pander to studio demands when it comes to delivering the violence. However, things get worse with Taken 3 which waters down proceedings even further and can't even manage to string a basic plotline together. It would appear that the future of the series seems doomed after this disappointing third entry.
Of course, Neeson is no stranger to action roles whether its teaching Obi-Wan Kenobi all he knows in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace or battling against Christian Bale's Dark Knight in Batman Begins. Other films you might like to try include his desperate airline marshall searching for a bomber in Non-Stop or how about another film where he comes unstuck in Paris, the amnesiac thriller Unknown. It's refreshing to see an older actor being able to mix it with the young guns coming through, almost as refreshing as seeing the lead in an action movie being able to act.
© 2016 Benjamin Cox