Beyond the first film grossing $145 million, there’s little reason for the existence of Taken 2. It’s not breaking any ground from the unexpected 2008 smash hit starring Liam Neeson as a retired CIA agent rescuing his kidnapped daughter. The sequel has a definite sense of more of the same, but what Taken 2 does have in its favor is Neeson’s never-failing man’s man toughness, which still goes a long way in making for an entertaining action film.
While Taken director Pierre Morel doesn’t return, screenwriters Luc Besson and Mark Kamen are back for a second go-round joined by Transporter 3 director Oliver Megaton. The passing of the baton is perhaps a little too smooth as Megaton largely follows in Morel’s footprints.
Action scenes are quick and sped up through frequent clipping to retain the series’ feel, but Megaton doesn’t take enough chances to create the film in his own image even down to a similar setting. Instead, he just acts as the franchise’s caretaker unwilling to truly shake up status quo.
This time, the film demands more of Neeson carrying it to a respectable fun level. While he’s capable of shouldering the load, part of what made Taken such a revelation was how effortlessly Neeson made it look.
In a slight twist from the first film, Neeson’s Bryan Mills is the one being hunted down as the family members of some of his bullet catchers from Taken are out for revenge and trying to track down him down.
Bryan meanwhile is focusing on other matters like helping his daughter, Kim, (Maggie Grace, Lockout) get her driver’s license. As a Lost fan, I’m glad Grace is getting work, but at 28-years-old at the time this was released, it’s a stretch to buy her as a teenager. An unnecessary change this time sees Bryan re-connect with his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen, The Wolverine), who has separated from her current husband. It’s a weak attempt to get Bryan and Lenore back together when the dynamic of the exes coming together to help Kim in the original was much stronger.
With a few days to kill in Istanbul after wrapping up his last assignment, Bryan invites them to visit him, just in time for the bad guys to find. To mix things up a bit, Bryan and Lenore are initially captured and things get dicey via a credibility-stretching sequence where Kim has to help Bryan escape.
It doesn’t ruin the film, but getting the younger sidekick/child assistance is more of a third film move than a sequel where we just want to see Bryan doing more of what we loved from the first installment. And Bryan’s kill count in the sequel is surprisingly five short of the 35 he killed in the first film. But again, Neeson as bada$$ killer trumps most of the film’s lack of creativity.
Rade Serbedzija’s Murad Krasniqi leads the bad guys and with his gravelly voice and thick beard, he exudes an old-school classic movie villain until the second act when his cool vengeful calm gives way to frantic would-be target trying to escape Bryan’s fury. [Tekken fans will get that one].
Taken was a welcome treat for action fans in the tradition of the Jason Bourne saga films. Its sequel is more comfortable simply winning over Taken and Neeson fans so if you count yourself among that number, you’ll be satisfied. Hopefully the series can match Neeson’s intensity with the upcoming Taken 3.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Buy on Blu-Ray: Taken 2 (Unrated Cut) [Blu-ray]
Buy on DVD: Taken 2