I’m not entirely sure what it was about Taken that made it a $200+ million grossing film around the world. It was a decent enough action movie, but nothing particularly amazing. However its success ensured we’d get a Taken 2, and it’s not surprising Liam Neeson was keen to return, as the first movie gave his career a real shot in the arm.
One nice touch in Taken 2 is that it’s the events of the first film and hoe he goes about his business that come back to haunt ex-CIA operative Brian Mills (Liam Neeson). However while it’s Mills’ penchant for killing anyone who even looks at him funny that gets him into this film’s mess, you don’t need to worry that he’s going to turn over a new leaf and stop shooting 90% of the people he comes across.
Brian, his wife Lenore (who’s separated from her husband) and their daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) head for Istanbul for a bit of a break while he’s working. However the patriarch of the group of human traffickers Brian took on in the first film isn’t pleased about the death of his son and demands some payback.
Soon Brian and Lenore are kidnapped, and in a bit of a reverse of the first film, it’s Kim who has to help her father to escape, so that they can get Lenore back. Cue an endless succession of Albanians (the film is handily racist enough that you can tell who’s good and who’s bad purely by how foreign they look) who Brian and Kim need to get past in order to save the day.
As with the first movie, the plot ticks along but is essentially scaffolding to hang the action scenes from. Some of these work better than others. The ludicrously named director, Olivier Megaton, certainly loves fast-cutting, to the point where it’s sometimes tough to keep track of what’s going on. However when he actually allows the camera to linger for more than fifth of a second, the action is pretty good, with plenty of fighting, shooting, chasing around in cars and a few moments of torture that will have you wincing.
One thing the first movie had going for it was a great sense of urgency, but Taken 2 feels much more of a journeyman proposition, getting from plot point to plot point via a series of decent but rather OTT action scenes. It’s a film that’s rather difficult to get invested in. It gets to the point where Mills’ becomes such a ridiculously unstoppable machine that there’s little excitement due to the fact that no matter how many guns are pointed at him or how much he’s beaten up, you never feel like he’s genuinely in jeopardy or that his family has anything to worry about.
It’s passable enough for an hour and a half’s entertainment – and fans of violence will enjoy some of the stronger moments of brutality that have been added back in for the ‘Extended Harder Cut’ – but it doesn’t really add up to all that much. It definitely an attempt to take what people liked about the first movie and rev it up for the second, but what it doesn’t seem to realise it that just because people enjoyed Liam Neeson’s one-man-killing-machine and wanted to see more of it, making him seem less human and turning him essentially invulnerable dulls the impact of what’s on-screen.
Overall Verdict: Taken 2 just about justifies its existence, but it does seem an awful lot of effort for not too much payback. If you like an endless succession of action, you’ll enjoy Taken 2, but if you want decent characters and a sense of real danger, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac