2008 Thriller Taken proved to be a surprise hit and got a decent response from critics. Even it’s star, Liam Neeson, was surprised by the success of the film which turned him into an action star overnight.
For a film to make over $200 million USD on a $25 million budget, a sequel was always going to be inevitable.
Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) has put all the destruction he waged over Paris behind him (managing to evade any legal consequences also) to focus on what’s important. He’s just an ordinary guy deep down, and despite being an efficient killing machine he’s more intereseted in being a good father to his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). Lucky for Bryan, his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) is having some marital troubles which gives him the chance to swoop in. Ever the sly dog, he invites his family to Istanbul in order to get some quality time.
Unfortunately for the Mills however, it turns out that the numerous bad guys Bryan slaughtered in the first film have families of their own. Murad (Rade Šerbedžija) is like Bryan in that he he wants to be a good father, and vows revenge on the man responsible for his sons deaths. Along with some more middle eastern undesirables, Murad turns up in Istanbul with the sole intention of making Bryan suffer. This isn’t Bryan’s first rodeo however, and before long he’s tearing up the city like only he knows how as he searches for his ex-wife (Kim managed to avoid capture somehow).
Olivier Megaton is in the director’s chair this time, however he doesn’t pack the same punch that Pierre Morel delivered in Taken. The initial fight scenes are a blurry mess, where all the action has been lost in the super fast edits. They’re hard to follow and a little nonsensical, leading us to believe that they’ve been a victim of the cutting room floor. Although Morel made many cuts in order to secure a PG-13 rating just as Megaton has, the latter had to make even more cuts for the UK release in order to secure a 12A rating (Taken was a 15). What we’re presented with is Taken Lite which makes 24 look like Ichi the Killer by comparison. The action scenes also suffer from poor CGI in favour of real stunts in a couple of set pieces. Very disapointing from the director that gave us the violent (and underrated) Hitman and the ridiculous but fun Transporter 3.
It isn’t just the action which lets the sequel down though. Whereas in the first film, Bryan is the main focus, the sequel devoted some more screen time to his daughter. Turns out Kim isn’t an interesting character, not that we noticed this before due to her being nothing more than a MacGuffin. Here, she’s giving grenades and a car chase along with too much dialogue.
Not that Taken 2 is a bad film, it just doesn’t entertain in the same way the first one did. The action scenes do pick up as the film finds its groove and it’s hard not to root for Mills as he does what he does best. Liam Neeson may come across as Jason Bourne’s Dad, but the burning desire for revenge that drove him in the first film is replaced with, what seems, a desire to just put his feet up sooner rather than later.
Perhaps there’s a better film lying on the cutting room floor that we will see when the DVD comes out with it’s extended cut. With talks of a sequel due to an impressive box office, has the studio Taken this too far? (sorry, couldn’t resist it).