The first Taken film was a spectacular example of an underrated film winning audiences with intensity, fine acting, solid production values, a startling look at a nasty underbelly of eastern Europe, and an altogether relentless plot.
The second Taken film, to be successful, needed all of these plus a few twists in order to pull of the same success and following. Taken 2 fails because it forgets to have a relentless plot, instead doing some strange geographic acrobatics to confuse the viewer.
Here’s a trailer:
Released October 5, 2012
Written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
Directed by Olivier Megaton
Starring Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Liam Neeson, Rade Serbedzija, D.B. Sweeney, Leland Orser, and Jon Gries
* * * * *
Brian Mills (Neeson) and his daughter Kim (Grace) seem to have recovered from the events of Taken, which happened an indeterminate time previous to this film. Kim doesn’t have her license yet, which begs the question about how old Maggie Grace is trying to be here.
Age questions aside, Brian’s ex-wife Lenore (Janssen) and her second hubby are in splitsville and Brian has learned from his previous mistakes that he needs to be sensitive and solicitous. Also, he obviously still loves Lenore. Following an opening sequence of fairly regular family life and Brian being an overbearing but good dad, Brian invites his wife and daughter to meet him in Prague after he finishes his next job.
The family is reunited in Prague and good times are had, while Brian and Lenore realize that Kim is trying to get them back together.
Meanwhile, all of those eastern European human traffickers that Brian killed in the first movie apparently had fathers and brothers and sons. We see a funeral led by Murad (Serbedzija), at the end of which, Murad extends a call to arms and vows revenge upon the man that killed these deplorable human beings that worked in the human sex slave trade.
Yeah, not a lot of sympathy for these villains either.
So all of this leads to an abduction of both Lenore AND Brian, wherein Brian is just barely able to warn Kim of the attack so that she evades the bad guys. Luckily, Brian is really good at what he does and he has a tiny phone hidden on his person so that he can start gathering help, but in the meantime, Kim convinces Brian to let her help him. He leads her through the steps of tracking down where he and Lenore are being held.
Kim does a very fine job and finds them. What she doesn’t know and Brian does know is that Lenore is slowly bleeding out from being stuck in the neck. Clock’s ticking.
Brian is able to get free and he and Kim have to chase the bad guys down before Lenore’s life ebbs completely away, setting up a pretty great, if somewhat illogical, extended chase which culminates in some gunfire, some shaky-cam hand-to-hand, and a pretty good, if rather easy and premature, final showdown scene.
The reason Taken 2 doesn’t deliver anywhere near as effective an adrenaline-rush is that the filmmakers didn’t take time to figure out a few twists that made things even harder for Brian and Kim. In not throwing more at these two, the movie is robbed of authenticity, tension, and entertainment value.
When the movie is wrapping up, you’ll be sitting there thinking, “Wait. Already? Seriously? That’s it?”
Because the writing of the story just isn’t taken far enough, the perfectly good actors’ very solid performances aren’t allowed to have the emotional impact that they might otherwise have had. Maggie Grace turns in a particularly good performance, stepping up and helping with the initial rescue quite convincingly.
So Taken 2 just isn’t as intense, just not the thrill-ride, as we wanted. It’s still enjoyable, though abbreviated. The filming is standard, but enhanced by the setting in Prague. The pace is on target, but gypped. It starts very well, setting up some very nice character arcs and motivations and tension.
Then it stops. It’s worth seeing, but not at full price and not with many expectations.
Content warnings: some semi-harsh language, plenty of non-bloody violence.
Writing: 2.5 Acting: 4.5 Overall: 3.5
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