Liam Neeson reprises his role as the world’s favorite bad-ass in Olivier Megaton‘s Taken 2. This completely unneeded sequel attempts to rekindle the flames from the first film, but fails at delivering an action film that we haven’t already seen. Taken 2 joins the ranks as just another pointless sequel, with less action and purpose as the first. It’s not the worst thing you could see this weekend, but it’s something that should be avoided, because you probably already own Taken.
Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is called to duty yet again, but this time he’s involved in the kidnapping. A man by the name of Murad (Rade Serbedzija) has vowed to seek revenge on Mills and his family after losing his own son to Mills during the last film. This time the bad guys want Bryan, his daughter (Maggie Grace) and his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) to even the score.
Like most action sequels Taken 2 directly borrows the plot from the previous film, only this time it ups the ante by adding some intricacy to the kidnapping. Bryan isn’t just worried about his life this time, but also the life of his daughter and ex-wife. This familiar plot point is the reason the entire film shouldn’t exist. We’ve seen this play out and we have no reason to see it play out again, especially in the hands of a lesser director.
Taken director Luc Besson has stepped down and taken on producing/writing credits, handing over the sequel to Olivier Megaton. Megaton previously directed the shitty PG-13 revenge film Colombiana and his lacking skills as a director shows in this tame sequel. Besson’s unflinching violence and high-adrenaline filmmaking is replaced by Megaton’s need for over-stylized opening credits sequences and action that hides the bullets. You get to see Neeson fire his weapon and punch multiple thugs in the throat, but you never get to see what becomes of it. Megaton is too worried with cutting the film up into a million pieces and rarely enabling you to see what’s actually going on during any given scene.
Dialogue has definitely scaled back in quality. Taken wasn’t overly-serious, even though the subject matter was, but Taken 2 tries so hard at being dramatic during the encounters between Neeson and Famke Janssen. Their crumbled relationship becomes much more of a thing in the sequel and it eventually leads to nowhere. Janssen cries and drinks while Neeson processes the situation. He tries to provide some emotional backbone, but we’re not here to see Neeson rekindle some old flames.
Neeson understands that and quickly shifts into gear within 20 minutes. Taken 2 deserves credit for pacing. Megaton keeps things shallow and simple and relies mostly on Neeson’s ability to carry any given scene. Taken 2 peels back more at the thought process that ruins through Mills’ head during any given situation and it’s kind of interesting and also very bad ass. Mills rattles off demands when the bad guys have his wife at gunpoint and he even walks his daughter through a step-by-step on how to pinpoint his location using a shoelace, a map and a couple of grenades. It’s ridiculous and awesome and exactly what every die-hard Neeson fan wants to see.
But Taken 2 also forgets that we’ve seen Taken. The hand-to-hand fighting and shootouts are a far cry from Besson’s under-the-radar masterpiece. Taken benefited highly from being something that no one really knew much about and it exploded onto the world of cinema with so much raw violence. It managed to still be an intense film with its US-friendly PG-13 rating, but Taken 2 draws back and doesn’t give us nearly as much bone-braking or face-smashing that we’d expect.
Sequels are supposed to improve upon and heighten, not deflate and revisit the exact same territory.
Taken 2 is simply a rehash of Taken. This time the bad guy is known from the start and he literally sits in a chair and waits for Neeson to come and kick the door down. It’s painfully lazy in approach and it makes the outcome less rewarding.
It’s a decent enough film, but at the end you’re left tired and unmoved by watching it, much like Neeson seems to be tired and bored with the character. He’s got that drive and motivation that pushes the character to keep killing until his family is safe, but by curtain call Neeson’s lack of energy really shows.
Taken 2 is okay if you’re willing to pay for something you’ve already seen. Something that you’ve seen done with much more character and action to boot. Taken is a great piece of action cinema that works on basic properties. Taken 2 tries from time-to-time to be that same film, but it ultimately gives up half-way and becomes another Olivier Megaton over-acted wannabe action flick that is far from creative or exciting. Megaton only captures the boring part of action films with hard-to-follow car chases and shootouts and fights that amount to nothing and end within 30 seconds. Do yourself a favor and skip this one, or else Fox is going to get a third one greenlit.
Taken 2 – 6.5/10