Film Review: Taken 2

There is an episode of CSI Miami when it’s clear the show had gone completely potty. In the episode there is a fire which traps one of the crime scene investigators underneath a concrete pillar. Two burly men try and lift it, but fail miserably. Then the shows hero Horatio Caine, armed with his shades and flamboyant ginger hair, is able to lift the pillar single-handed and sling it across the room. The fact that he’s in his fifties didn’t seem to matter. Because he’s the hero; the man who can do anything no matter how unrealistic.

Taken 2 has one of those moments. Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) finds himself in a tricky situation when his past comes back to haunt him. He’s in Istanbul and has no idea where he or his daughter is. So he decides to call his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) and hatches a plan. He tells her to throw a grenade in the air so then when he hears the explosion, he can calculate the exact distance between them. Just like that. In his head. It’s an idea that is laughably insane, but it is the kind of the thing you expect from action B movies like this. But B movie actioners at least have the enjoyability factor. Taken 2 is devoid of this. Bryan Mills used to have a particular set of skills; now he’s a cartoon.

While doing some work in Istanbul, Bryan invites his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) and his daughter Kim to join him for a short holiday. While attempting to patch things up with Lenore, Bryan finds the holiday turning into a nightmare when the Albanian family of the man he electrocuted to death in the previous film have tracked him down. Bryan and Lenore are taken, so it is left up to Kim to come to their aid and save them.

It really is a shame that Liam Neeson is being forced to make his way through such a bad story. He is watchable and engaging as always, but there are moments when you get the feeling he’s just thinking about picking up his pay cheque. This is certainly something we didn’t see in the first instalment, when he made his transformation into middle-aged action hero. Neeson himself admitted that he thought it would go straight to DVD, instead of becoming a massive box office hit.

Maggie Grace returns to play Bryan’s daughter Kim, and she has made quite the transformation. She used to be the innocent, virginal victim. Now she’s an innocent, virginal action hero. When Bryan and Lenore are captured, Bryan doesn’t think twice in telling his 19-year-old daughter exactly where he has stashed a handgun and some grenades. With them in hand she’s off leaping across rooftops. It’s difficult to decide what’s harder to believe – that Kim could make such a ridiculous transformation, or that Maggie Grace is still convincing as a 19-year-old even though she is now 28.

A lot of the blame has to be laid at the feet of the director Olivier Megaton. Having directed two other poor action films (Transporter 3 and Columbiana) he continues his bad run, this time with horrifically filmed set pieces. Bryan’s close encounters with Albanian thugs are quite often filmed with a handheld camera, so there is so much shaking it’s impossible to tell who’s pummelling who. If it weren’t for shots of Bryan as the last man standing we wouldn’t know who won these fights. Luc Besson has co-written the script again, but this time it’s like he can’t think of anything cool to show us.

Taken 2 has a 12A certificate, unlike the first film which was a certificate 15 and an 18 when it was released uncut on DVD. There’s no doubt that this sequel has been watered down in order to reach a wider audience, and we will probably see an uncut version of the film on DVD shelves in time for Christmas. But it’s clear from the total lack of creativity that this was purely made for the money.

During the press interviews leading up to the film’s release, Liam Neeson said he doubted there will be a Taken 3. However, Luc Beeson said he wasn’t planning on doing a third film, but because Taken 2 has made a huge amount of money at the box office he is considering it. This says it all right here. Forget creativity or actually giving the audience value for money, just keep churning out the same garbage as long as it makes money. Taken 2 does have a tiny plot thread in the vengeful family that could have proved interesting, but in the end it’s nothing but bile.

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About Eric Wood

Eric Wood is 21 years old, from Bury in Greater Manchester, and a graduate of Salford University where he studied Journalism and English Literature. His first novel comes out later in the year, and he begins work directing his first feature length movie in the summer. Eric absolutely adores all forms of writing and loves movies so he’s the ideal film critic. His greatest inspiration for many years has been Michael Crichton, as Crichton has written novels, non-fiction, screenplays, and directed movies. Eric would love to be able to achieve all of those things in my lifetime.
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