Taken 2 Directed by: Olivier Megaton Cast: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Rade Serbedzija, Famke Janssen Running Time: 1 hr 34 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: October 5, 2012
PLOT: A bodyguard (Neeson) is kidnapped along with his wife (Janssen) by men attempting to avenge their brethren who he previously killed.
WHO'S IT FOR? If the first Taken movie felt like a surge of ass-kicking action, well, here's a disappointing second serving. Those who own Taken will likely appreciate this movie more, as it will at least remind those lucky few of what awaits at home.
EXPECTATIONS: Late January moviegoers back in 2009 were hyped on Taken for the surprising ruthlessness it offered, along with the introduction to Neeson as a Jack Bauer-esque, super-American super badass. But now that we are more used to Neeson in these action roles, both good and bad, would another Taken movie be able to hit as hard, if at all?
Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills: The former dynamic hero for hardworking single dads everywhere is admittedly on autopilot in Taken 2, lacking any of the grit that made Taken exciting, or makes watching a sharp Neeson a giggly joy in general. Especially when Neeson gets into fightin' mode, he has nothing but a cold stare and the uninspired flailing of limbs, or the bland firing of a trigger. Score: 3
Rest of Cast: Janssen takes over the role previously played by her on-screen daughter, (that role being "The Taken,"); Grace has a couple of ditzy action moments, which hardly elevate her from being the Damsel in Distress she's been in similar genre movies like Taken and Lockout. The only actor that seems determined to make something out of being in this movie is Serbedzija, who attempts to add some tragic darkness to his villain, mirroring the anger that drove Mills to such violence in the first movie. Serbedzija is an easy casting for gothic European patriarch (just look at 'im!) but he's surprisingly resonant as a reminder amongst the rest of Taken 2's crap that no bad guy ever thinks they are doing the wrong thing. Score: 4
TALKING: With an irritated Neeson speaking into a cell phone, there is a reference to his famed monologue (you know, "I will find you, I will kill you," it's all over the freaking poster), but it's a purposeless nod to better days at its best. Proving that action movies enjoying the fantasy of being clever even when their nature is plainly dumb, Taken 2 garners some ridiculing laughter from an extensive sequence in which Mills (with supersonic hearing) coaches his daughter over the phone with the help of silly logic. Score: 3
SIGHTS: Trigger-happy editing doesn't benefit the concept of trying to watch Taken 2, instead making the film's viewing experience an assault of cuts attempting to compensate for the boring action happening on screen. This is especially the case with the film's car chases, or any sequences that involve indecipherable hand-to-hand combat between Mills and generic thugs. Score: 4
SOUNDS: Referencing another film that has memories more entertaining than the entirety of Taken 2, two songs from Drive are heard here ("A Real Hero" by College and "Tick of the Clock" by The Chromatics). The rest of the music in Taken, a score heavy on computer effects, fails to invigorate more than the brief usage of these two tunes. Score: 3
BEST SCENE: Since Taken 2 is scant on the action fun, I turn to a brief moment in which Neeson confronts Serbedzija in a confrontation as two angry fathers looking out for their offspring, and tired of killing.
ENDING: Neeson basically threatens to drink a kid's milkshake.
QUESTIONS: No more, right? (Apparently Besson said this is indeed the case himself, perhaps he knows how much this movie pretty much sucks). Did Megaton really think he was going to get away with those two Drive cues without anyone noticing?
REWATCHABILITY: In the most basic of terms, there is no exciting kill or bad-ass piece of dialogue from Taken 2 that I would ever want to revisit. In fact, there's nothing here that makes a second viewing sound like anything more than a mistake.
The difference between Taken 2 and its predecessor is best imagined with roller coasters. Though still an amusement vehicle constructed on a controlled track that's design could probably be fully comprehended without having to ride it, Taken had rushes of unexpected adrenaline, and a snarling Neeson kicking bad guy butt like he really meant it. Compare that to Taken 2, the wimpy kid-sized roller coaster downgrade, (the one with the dorky caterpillar, probably) which lacks any of the speed or fiery cliche charm inherent in the existence of such fun rides anyway. The only excitement that Taken 2 can offer is that it dares to risk your time, or the money that you could spend to see something like Looper instead.
Taken 2 starts off on the wrong foot, playing kidnapping footsie with the fate of the characters until we are indifferent as to whether they are safe or in peril. Then, when said characters are finally following the command of the movie's title, the series' enthusiasm for genre conventions shows to have worn thin, taking this movie's pizzazz with it. Regardless as to whether it is being compared to Taken or not (something that's certainly hard not to do), Taken 2 is plainly a dull movie, leaving much to be desired in nearly all of its action sequences that conclude with shoudler-shrugging thuds instead of explosive jolts.
It's a bad balance of what one wants from a movie like this - instead of giving audiences more loony (or even dumb) action sequences, Taken 2 provides entertainment that functions much more automatically. Instead of cutting the cheesy drama fat, we get more of it - and this time, this disappointing movie's lagging weakness of seriously embracing corniness can't be excused. With Taken 2, dumb action isn't fun again.
FINAL SCORE: 3/10