Mark Reviews Movies

Taken 2


2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Olivier Megaton

Cast: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Rade Serbedzija, 

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sensuality)

Running Time: 1:31

Release Date: 10/5/12

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Review by Mark Dujsik | October 4, 2012

On the surface, Taken 2 might seem a rehash of the first movie. The basics of the plot follow the same thread, as Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), a former agent of a covert government agency, must find a kidnapped family member. This time, it's his ex-wife who's taken by an Albanian crime syndicate, and their motives are no longer profit but revenge. After all, Mills killed a lot of them in the previous movie (A quick string of flashbacks to all the killings reminds us of this fact and how simple the movie is to be whittled down to less than 20 seconds of footage), and one of those men happened to be the son of the organization's leader.

Whereas Taken had an air of melancholy about Mills' hunt for his daughter as he investigated the terrible enterprise of human trafficking (so many victims, too few resources to help them), the sequel is a comparatively jovial affair. At least that's the way it comes across, given how absurd the repetition of the premise is (not to mention how many times it is repeated within the movie or how often Mills contributes to his wife's peril through neglect) and how silly some of this can be.

Mills' life has calmed down quite a bit from when we last saw him. He's more involved in his daughter Kim's (Maggie Grace) life, and she even welcomes it to a degree. The only thing separating them now is the fact that she's growing up, from learning to drive so she can get a license (She has already failed the test twice, which actually turns out to be some foreshadowing for a later action scene) to getting a boyfriend. She wants her life to be normal after almost being sold into sexual slavery.

His former spouse Lenore (Famke Janssen) is now separated from her husband (represented by a car speeding away from her house). He invites his ex-wife and daughter to Istanbul, where he's working a private security gig.

Just as with the first movie, the screenplay by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen compactly asserts the sense of the family dynamic. This time around, it is more hopeful, with Mills no longer trying to cling to whatever little connection he has left but attempting to make a new one. A scene between him and Kim on a boat in which the two talk about love offers a sense of the maturing father-daughter relationship and provides information for the potential rekindling of his marriage.

Intercut throughout these scenes are ones detailing how Murad Krasniqi (Rade Serbedzija) and his gang track down Mills to exact their revenge. Since we can predict with absolute certainty that the moments of Mills and his family are the calm before the inevitable storm, we appreciate their candor; they are the only respite from the chaos that will ensue.

Director Olivier Megaton does a serviceable job building the tension in the immediate scenes before Krasniqi's thugs execute their twofold abduction plan. Mills and Lenore are being driven through the city, while Kim relaxes at the hotel pool. In the first of a few times Mills leaves his ex-wife to fend for herself for no discernible reason, he sends her with a long list of directions to the hotel while leading Krasniqi's men on a wild goose chase through a crowded city market, and yes, there is a cart that explodes with fruit as Mills plows through any obstacle in his path. Back at the hotel, Kim hides and gets away by way of a perilous walk along a ledge.

After the setup, the movie's scenarios alternate between routine and ridiculous. The latter pieces are a bit trickier to generalize, but they stand out nonetheless. A big fight during Mills' final showdown with the men who kidnapped his ex-wife is set in a room that contains a circular platform, and both men actually stand atop it like two fighters in a ring (On a side note, two vital sound effects are missing, making two of Mills kills look like he's simply shoving his hand in each man's face).

The other most obvious one involves Mills' idea of figuring out where he and Lenore are being held in the city. He instructs his daughter to explode not one, not two, but three grenades at different times so he can time out how long it takes for the sound to reach him. Twice she haphazardly does so in a bustling area. At least the movie features a relatively realistic car chase, in which Kim repeatedly crashes into things (We assume she accomplishes the more stylish moves with the help of her father; again, the editing is so choppy it's impossible to tell).

In between Taken 2 offers fights—shot in close and medium shots and edited in staccato to the point that they are indecipherable—and shootouts—most noticeable is the tiresome climax's shooting gallery arrangement of bad guys popping out from behind walls and through doors—and not much else. Some final dialogue leaves open the possibility of another installment. Mills offers the best retort to the prospect: "I am tired of it all."

Copyright © 2012 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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