Friday, October 5, 2012

Taken 2 (2012) - Movie Review

Maybe Liam Neeson should stay home for a while...

Seriously he shouldn't go anywhere.  He either gets in a plane crash or someone gets kidnapped.

Spoilers ahead...

It's been a year since the events of Taken and things seems to be looking up for Bryan Mills.  He has a much better relationship with his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen), and things are going well with his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace).  In the past he'd be gone after a few weeks, but is now present in their lives, even taking time to teach Kim how to drive.  Why a college student living in LA doesn't know how to drive yet I'll never understand.

Anyway, there's not much to the plot.  You learn that the father of Kim's kidnapper from the first film wants revenge. He then attempts to kidnap the Mills family while they are vacationing in Istanbul.  Mills fights back.  That's it.  That's the entire plot.  There aren't any surprises here and it's pretty predictable.

What made Taken so much fun was that it really caught everyone by surprise.  Nobody was expecting much from it, but it was tension filled and had all these great moments of impact.  They captured lightning in a bottle, and ended up with a hit.  Naturally, a sequel was coming, but unfortunately, Taken 2 is a step back in quality.  There's so many silly and convenient things done with the plot that it feels amateurish at times.  Here's a few examples:
  • Early in the film, Kim steals some clothes from a random locker, and they appeared to be men's clothing, but they happen to fit her perfectly.
  • Mills has Kim throw several grenades around the city and nobody ever seems to mind or notice.
  • Naturally, Kim is forced to drive in a high speed chase, and is suddenly now an expert driver, even though she failed her previous drivers test.  Quick learning curve, eh?  
  • During this scene Mills basically says to Kim that since she can't shoot a gun, then she needs to drive.  This made me wonder that considering Mills 'particular set of skills', and what happened to his daughter in the previous film, how come he hasn't bothered teaching her self defense or how to use a gun?  Wouldn't that be something a person like Mills would be concerned with in case someone attempted to kidnap her again?
  • Midway through the film, Mills and Kim crash through the US embassy, and their car gets all shot up in the process.  You see soldiers converging on the car, yet in the very next scene Mills is walking around town again hot on the heels of the kidnappers without any explanation of how he got out of the embassy.  It seems like a really important step was skipped there.
  • The first time Mills escapes from the kidnappers, he leaves his ex-wife behind without having her hide or securing her somewhere, allowing her to immediately be kidnapped again.
The bad guys were pretty stupid, too.  It was like how when a Bond villain tells him his entire plan, but then leaves the room allowing him plenty of time to escape.  What's the deal with the main bad guy (Rade Serbedzija) anyway?.  His son kidnaps Mills' daughter, among many others, Mills gets his daughter back killing the son in the process, but the father thinks he's the one that needs revenge.  Seems like you're pretty much in the even column at this point.  Mills even get the opportunity to explain this to the guy, and he just didn't care.  He was about as cookie cutter and single minded as a villain can get.

Yeah, I get it.  Taken 2 isn't a movie meant to be steeped in realism or worrying about things like logic.

There's some really awful dialog, and it's not just with the bad guys.  I even thought some of the dialog between Mills and Kim was very uncomfortable.  He's asking her things like if she loves her boyfriend, and if she's ever been in love before.  That just seemed weird to me.  The script by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen badly needed some punch up.  There were many missed opportunities to inject some humor or one liners that would have put some fun in the film.

Taken 2 was directed by Luc Besson's current go-to guy, Olivier Megaton (Transporter 3, Columbiana), which is a great name for an action director.  Megaton does a good job with keeping the pace of the film tight, and it doesn't really suffer from any slow down in the action, but it's just too one-dimensional.  That's as much to blame on Besson and Kamen though.  It also has a pretty unsatisfying ending.  

The action isn't bad, but it's still a step back from the first film.  In early fight, it was nearly impossible to tell what was going on due to all the quick cuts and rapid moving camera work.  The only time you seemed to get a real good shot of the hand-to-hand action was towards the end when he fights a guy in a track suit that's roughly the same age as Liam Neeson.  He also seems to kill several guys in the movie without really doing much to the guy other than hitting them, which I thought only Chuck Norris could do.  Neeson was at his best once he had a gun.

Liam Neeson wasn't bad, but he can play this role in his sleep.  He didn't seem as invested this time around.  There's one cool thing that they did where they show you a little insight into the thought process once he's kidnapped, and you see how he's taking in details, so he knows where and what the situation is, but it gets abandoned shortly after.  Maggie Grace got a little more to do this time around and actually got to take part in the action and rescuing.  I do think it's kind of funny that she's almost 30 and still passing for much younger.  I think we'd all like to know her anti-aging secrets.  I love Famke Janssen, but it only seemed like she was in the movie only to be consistent with the first film.  Her role this time around consisted of either crying, or waking up from being unconscious.  It's not her fault, the script just didn't give her much to do.

I didn't hate Taken 2, and it's not the worst thing I've ever seen, but it's another case of sequelitis striking again.  It's just more of the same, except it's missing the tension and thrills of the first film. This felt like they were making it up as they went along, and it's about as lazy as a sequel gets.  I can't recommend this as anything more than a rental.  You'd be better off just watching the first Taken again this weekend on DVD and save yourself some money.

2.5 (out of 5) Death Stars.


  1. Good review Erik. I didn't hate this film, probably because I went into it expecting a dumb, idiotic piece of action that will do nothing but entertain me. That's sort of what happened, but damn, is this frickin' movie stupid?!!?

    1. It's so dumb that it's hard to hate it, like a dumb dog that doesn't know better. I have to admit that I still got some entertainment out of it though.

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