US Release Date: 10-05-2012
Directed by: Olivier Megaton
- Liam Neeson, as
- Bryan Mills
- Maggie Grace, as
- Famke Janssen, as
- Leland Orser, as
- Jon Gries, as
- D.B. Sweeney, as
- Luke Grimes, as
- Rade Serbedzija, as
- Murad Krasniqi
- Kevork Malikyan, as
- Inspector Durmaz
- Alain Figlarz as
Liam Neeson and Maggie Grace in Taken 2.
The original Taken was an over-the-top, old fashioned, fast paced revenge fantasy. This sequel is simply more of the same, but like most sequels, it lacks the originality of its predecessor.
Liam Neeson is back as security expert Bryan Mills. You might think that after all the trouble he went through in the first movie to rescue his daughter that the last thing he would want is to let her out of the country again, but that's exactly what he does, only this time she also brings her mother. They join Bryan in Istanbul where, sure enough, they all get attacked by gangsters, who turn out to be related to the gangsters who were killed in the first movie.
Despite having recently turned 60, Neeson still manages to make a believable action star. Sure, he's looking a bit older and a lot heavier, but the villains he faces were wisely cast. None of them are superhuman or even that young. They also aren't any better shots than the bad buys from the first movie. Certainly the action scenes are the movie's best moments.
There doesn't seem to be as much action this time though. It feels as though it takes longer before it starts and it ends sooner. The opening scenes go to great length to provide an emotional backstory. Bryan is still in love with his ex-wife and he's shown to be overprotective as the movie tries to be cute about him meeting his daughter's boyfriend. Audiences know what's coming, so all this isn't really needed.
The ending also feels rather anticlimactic. There's an extended escape sequence/gun battle/car chase that takes place about three-quarters of the way through the movie. It's the most exciting sequence and the movie's real climax. The story should have ended with it, but instead it continues on for a good 20 more minutes.
Not that the movie is a long one. Despite the build up at the beginning, the entire story is wrapped up in 90 minutes. And once the action gets started, it flies by. There's not enough time to get bored.
If they make a third Taken, which given the opening box office of this one, seems likely, they need to stop rehashing the same script. Have someone who isn't related to Bryan get kidnapped next time. And maybe bring in a younger male actor to take on some of the more strenuous physical action.
If you enjoyed the first Taken, you'll probably enjoy this one as well, but you won't be blown away by it.
Liam Neeson in Taken 2
I was not blown away by Taken 2 as I wrote was my reaction to the original. It still has much to offer but it lacks the fluidity of the original's plot. Taken was a very simply put together film. We met a father and a daughter. She got abducted and he stopped at nothing to rescue her. Here it is not quite so focused.
The film opens with a multiple funeral for some of the men Bryan killed in the first film. One man in particular seems in charge and he swears revenge on Bryan. This entire scene needed to be cut. We do not care who this man is. The men being buried kidnapped, raped, sold and killed innocent girls. No emotional back story on these men's family help the story along. Besides, once he has Bryan tied up, he shows him pictures of the men he killed. We are then shown a quick flashback to the first film, explaining again why this man is after Bryan and his family. Redundant!
Taken 2 hints strongly that Bryan and his ex wife Lenore may get back together. These are important scenes as we see just how their marriage fell apart and that Bryan still has feelings for her, thus making his attempts to rescue her all the more meaningful. We are emotionally invested in Bryan. We champion him as the strong defender of his innocent loved ones. We get caught up in Bryan's actions because on a gut level we all want to be him or want someone in our lives like him who would come to our aid if needed.
Thus, every scene that did not picture Bryan or his wife and child was unnecessary. I get that the bad guy is after revenge but that is all we need to know. As Scott wrote, this one did seem to take a bit longer to get to the action scenes. I blame it on the exposition of the man trying to exact revenge on Bryan. We need to see Bryan with his wife and daughter but not anything about the men plotting revenge. We know Bryan will not let them live anyway, so why waste our time with them when we already know their future.
Which leads me to my biggest complaint. Spoiler alert! Bryan and the father seeking revenge face each other in a Turkish bath, where Bryan offers him a chance to live if he agrees to end the cycle of revenge. What! The uniqueness of Bryan Mills as a character is that he is a straight forward singular minded person when his loved ones have been threatened. He does not negotiate. He does not beat around the bush. You harm his family and he ends your life, period.
That is what blew me and audiences away in the original. Bryan represented a strength in black and white justice that is so rarely seen in films. There was no namby pamby "can't we all just get along speech." He became focused when his daughter was taken and stayed that way until everyone involved paid the price. Bryan asking a man who told him he was going to kill him, his wife and daughter for a peace treaty contradicts everything we came to enjoy about Bryan as an action hero, and frankly makes him look weaker than we ever thought.
Taken 2 remains a decent action filled film with a certain level of tension, but the flow of the proceedings is awkward. Bryan's daughter lobs grenades all over Istanbul and never gets noticed? Bryan and his daughter crash through the U.S. embassy gate, to a hail of gun fire, but with a mere phone call we find Bryan in the very next scene walking down a street without any explanation as to what he told the embassy officials.
I disagree with Scott about Liam Neeson retaining his action star status. The fight scenes are very edited. Neeson does very little when it comes to the fighting. Notice that whenever you actually see that it is Neeson in a fight, all that is involved is blocking and throwing punches. No doubt stunt doubles were used for anything beyond that. There was enough action on screen no matter who was delivering it but on all accounts, this is a lesser product than the original and a contradiction of what first made us respond so well to Bryan.
Maggie Grace gets in on the action in Taken 2.
One of my biggest complaints about the Taken series is the treatment of its female characters. Therefore I was pleasantly surprised to see that Kim actually gets involved in some of the action this time around (I'm writing this review after already watching Taken 3). She plays a crucial role in saving both of her parents although, as Eric pointed out, it's a bit ludicrous the way she runs along the rooftops of Istanbul lobbing hand grenades without drawing the attention of the local police.
I disagree with Eric about the scene where Byran offers a truce to the head bad guy. Offering him a chance for peace doesn't make Bryan look weak. On the contrary, it demonstrates the difference between a hero and a villain. His reaction when the bad guy refuses his offer shows Bryan's true strength.
Liam Neeson does appear slightly out of shape in this installment. He is thinner in Taken 3 than he is here.
Spoiler Alert: I realize they wrote this script before they wrote the third movie but Taken 3 makes Taken 2 entirely pointless. Lenore is killed at the beginning of that movie so what the hell was the point of her being saved in this one? And poor Famke Janssen gets saddled with one of the most passive female characters in recent memory.
One thing you can say about Three Movie Buffs is that we offer a variety of opinions. Eric loved Taken, was disappointed by Taken 2, and thoroughly disliked Taken 3. Scott gave all three Taken's 2.5 stars, and I disliked all of them. Which movie buff do you agree with?
Photos © Copyright Twentieth Century Fox (2012)