I’m not going to hide from the easy, and trite, comment: I was taken with Taken. The action movie starting Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen and Maggie Grace was an absolutely stellar action thriller flick. Even my wife, who is not necessarily one for bang bang-bang shoot ‘em ups, found the story riveting and the fight choreography believable and engaging. The subject matter of a young girl being trapped—and taken—and sold in to sex slavery is a very real and very frightening plot point. The idea of a father having a “very specific skill set” being a retired CIA operative also resonates well with a need we have for the gun slinging cowboy to come and untie the girl from the train tracks. Except that this cowboy will shoot your wife in the arm and attach your balls to electricity to find his daughter—as would I (if I had a “very specific skill set” that is).
Then there is Taken 2. Taken 2 picks up shortly after the events of the first movie and from the onset seems like something of an addendum to the original movie—it is incredibly reliant on a lot of the facts from the first, but does little to catch the viewer up with those facts if they are a first time watcher. It continues some of the needs on the part of the audience to get the “full” happy ending in that it starts—very quickly—to prepare you for the notion that Bryan Mill’s (Neeson) will be reconciling with his ex-wife Lenore (Janssen) as she is going through a tough time with her never seen second husband (whom I will dub “Rich Jerk Guy”).
There is a premise that the “Muslims from Somewhere” bad guys are the brothers and fathers of the men Mills killed in the first movie out for revenge and to fill the soil around their bodies with the blood of the man who killed them. They do a very poor job of making these villains even half-way believable as human beings—because they were fully aware that their beloved ones, whose wives and daughters are wailing as if they were all Nobel Laureates, were teenage girl sex slavers. In the first movie at least, the villains were not even characters, but rather cardboard cutouts, like the ones in the NES classic Wild Gunmen, mere things for Mills to chase down, shoot, and kill in an effort to make them pay for what they done did.
In this movie you go through the motions of finding…well Mills and his wife as he dictates to his daughter exactly how to use geometry and grenades to fin their location. I’m not sure exactly what kind of science was employed for that to work exactl,y but Neeson, being a great actor, manages to make you forget that this seems wildly impossible and that even in the city of Istanbul (not Constantinople) that a grenade going off as an erstwhile GPS ping wouldn’t go without notice.
I won’t ruin the whole flick, there are some really fun and action packed moments and a cool really cool-yet-impossible things that Mils does that makes you wonder how the world could allow for such skill sets to exist…but that is the suspension of fantasy. Suffice it to say that by the time you realize the movie is coming to end, you kind of feel like there is a central piece of it missing. It isn’t so much that it’s a rehash of the concept of the original movie as much is its just really missing some motivation. When the not-Anthony-Hopkins villain screams, “It doesn’t matter what he did, he was my son!” he has immediately drawn a big neon-flashing arrow at the hole in the center of this movie. There is no logic to the events taking place.
I’m no curmudgeon, however, and if you are just looking for some fun “how’re they gonna get out of this one” moments, then this is a flick for you. It has some thrills but lacks the stand out character of the original. It doesn’t so much act as a sequel as it does an epilogue…and a mostly unnecessary one at that. It’s a fun good time, but its not a thinker’s movie…and not that the first one was, but at least it didn’t make your head hurt while you went on a thrilling ride. My suggestion? Watch it, but don’t pay for it. Wait for the Netflix instant stream.
Written by: Brandon Melendez