TAKEN 2 Review

Liam Neeson instantly brings credibility to anything he does, but even his presence in this money-grabbing sequel can hardly raise the quality of the overall film. I was optimistic despite the rush of negative reviews on this one. I wanted to believe that there was something everyone seemed to be missing. That maybe in the case of Taken critics and audiences alike were so in love or at least caught off guard by the rush of excitement the first film delivered that they were looking for more of the same that wasn't readily available here. What if the makers of this unnecessary film had taken the road less traveled by greedy studios and decided to change up the formula. Maybe Mr. Neeson used his pull and demanded that he'd only appear in the film if they came up with a story that truly justified a second film. Sadly, the only thing that rings true about any of this is that, for some reason, is that there is less action and more talking in Taken 2 than could be found within a mile of the original. Clearly the success of the first film was based around seeing  someone such as Neeson, an actor who seems so far removed from the campy action genre pick up his fists and firearms and take a shot at any idiot who stepped in his path. It was a non-stop rush of adrenaline that was as absurd as it was entertaining. It would be accurate to describe it as catching lightning in a bottle and not to mention, it propelled Neeson to a whole new phase in his career where he could take any pick of action protagonists he'd like and has continued taking advantage of the opportunities it has afforded him. The sequel, though it doesn't feel like a rehash of the original (I would have preferred that to what we've been given) instead feels like what was left on the cutting room floor the first time around.

Does anyone else find it odd that 29 year-old Maggie Grace
is just now getting her driver's license?
At what feels like a very brief hour and a half Taken 2 zips by and this is a good thing. At the end of the first film there was really nowhere for the story to go and that is never more evident than in the opening sequence that ruins a perfectly good opportunity to set the opening title sequence up much more dramatically than it does. Now, I can understand the amount of people and damage that Neeson's Bryan Mills did in the first movie will likely have elicited some kind of response from someone, but they have us witnessing as a man whose son was tortured by Mills and the "peaceful " families of all the others that were offed by the American as humble people seeking revenge. Now, I may be completely off on this one but it seems that this was an insider type business that was going on in the first film seeing as it was human trafficking and that the families of these guys would 1) be in the same business or 2) find what their kin were doing equally revolting and understand where this man was coming from. If not either of these they might at least have the sense to avoid a guy who so easily stormed through half of their family tree. No, instead they bring the other half in for the slaughter. If one has seen the trailer then you know what happens, you know where all this is heading and you will wish that there would have been more ass-kicking along the way. There is hardly a coherent story here at all. There is the set-up and from there we just watch as Neeson's character talks on the phone, gets into car chases and kills people by palming their faces. It would be worse if you didn't get the sense they know how ridiculous this is, but sometimes you don't get that sense at all and it worries you. There is a point were Taken 2 ventures past absurd and we can only hope the series is allowed to go no further.

Smothering someone with nothing more than his palm
becomes somewhat of a specialty for Bryan Mills in Taken 2.
Inevitably, this franchise will continue until it's more of a joke than a one off success that was considered awesome. I can't help but think of the saying "fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me." The first Taken was a surprise, a refreshing air of all-out action entertainment before things like The Expendables began. It was nice to see a father played by a man with such gravitas just throw his inhibitions to the wind and do whatever it took to save his daughter. With the sequel he does this again, and this time doing it for his ex-wife as much for his daughter. It is nice to see Neeson play these cheesy moments that feel obligatory rather than natural simply to see his charismatic presence ooze through the cracks of bad writing, but it isn't hard to tell what he's working with. We can see that it's hard, even for him, to sell. Audiences will see Taken 2 in hopes that it does deliver more of the same from the first, hoping to see Neeson in another leading man role that has him kicking ass and taking names, but they will feel underwhelmed when the credits start to role. They may even feel cheated despite the film providing a few exciting moments in the car chases but being so messily shot that we never know who's dying and who is who is going where. We are seriously led to believe that Mills takes out every Albanian on the planet in this film and sometimes all he has to do is shove them down by their face and they appear dead. I meant it when I used the word absurd. What makes it worse is not that the final showdown is between Neeson and a man half his size but still his same weight; no, the issue is that there is no point in any of this. If someone really wanted him dead they wouldn't have left him alone for half an hour tied up with nothing more than a piece of cloth. There is no way around it, this is unnecessary.

Hmm...I wonder where Taken 3 will take us....
My initial feeling is that folks flocked out the first weekend only to be disappointed and will not return for a third go around. They know what to expect (or what not to) and audiences know well enough that the series has nowhere else to go. Who could they possibly kidnap the next time around? Now, if they were to instead go the route of making a Bryan Mills centered film in the vein of Jack Ryan or Alex Cross rather than involving his family we might get to see where this guys particular set of skills came from in the first place, but uber-producer and writer Luc Besson would likely object in that this would take the personal investment out of Mills adventures. It would at least provide something fresh which this uninspired sequel has no a trace of. It hurts, really, because I did so shamelessly enjoy the first movie. Just that speech Neeson conveyed with such intimidating force that it became an instant iconic moment. The second film doesn't even capitalize on this moment. It doesn't care enough to genuinely want to be more than it is. It is just fine being tiresome and uninventive. There is nothing that can be done now though, movies like this will be made, people like me will complain, and they will still somehow make their money. The sooner audiences stop being taken by the studios with pure junk cinema like this the less of it they would hopefully make. I know it will never stop and that there is an entire audience out there of high schoolers who require something universally appealing to go see on a Friday night, but the least we could is trick them into seeing something that might stimulate their imaginations rather than displaying how easy it is to make a lot of money without having any imagination at all.