Taken 2 is like many in a long line of lackluster sequels that holds few if any of the charms that made the original film such a satisfying movie-going experience. The basic premise for the film is a good one, emotional, following logically the events from the first film. When the actual kidnapping is attempted is when the film loses momentum (unlike the first film). “Brevity is the soul of wit” and the writers of Taken 2 forgot that. What was off-screen in the first film was placed onscreen in this film and it falls flat, with little to offer those who have seen Taken, Spartan, The Professional or any other high-octane, well-written action drama.
Many times during its run time, Taken 2 felt more like a TV movie than a motion picture, complete with a predictable and forced relationship re-awakening between Bryan Mills (Liam Nesson) and his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen).
As with most action films, the antagonists in Taken 2 do not have the skill set that Bryan has and he dispatches them all quickly. This was to be expected. Bryan was not going up against former S.E.A.L.S. or Green Berets. What kind of action film would that have made? One in which Bryan was evenly or over-matched and might actually lose a fight? Who wants to see a film where the hero has a worthy opponent and the outcome is actually in doubt? A terrible and uncelebrated film like Michael Mann‘s Heat is an example of this type of buffoonery.
Kim Mills (Maggie Grace) setting off grenades in a major city on roof tops was bizarre. On paper, the grenade detonations probably seemed like a good idea but in reality they were impractical, dangerous, and foolhardy. How does Kim know that someone is not directly below those roofs doing some type of maintenance work? What about shrapnel? The scene showed off Byran’s skill with direction and “trade craft” but it also served to make the film seem as if a amateur screenwriter had written it with no oversight, like the Star Wars prequels.
The funniest, I mean the most tense, scene in Taken 2 was the impromptu car chase conducted by clairvoyant race car drivers so skilled they knew that no one would get in the way of their cars during their vehicular fist-a-cuffs. This is a commonality in Hollywood films e.g. Die Hard with a Vengeance, The Fast and the Furious franchise, et cetera as dead civilians at the hands of the protagonist might skew the audience’s feelings (the audience might actually see the protagonist as a flawed person, fallible like everyone else, not a black and white caricature). This wasn’t the case with superior Safe House and even Dredd, a “comic book movie”, did not bow down to this convention.
The conventional car race scene in Taken 2 was topped by the cherry of adolescence. A post-pubescent “teenage” girl, Kim (who is 29), is one of the drivers of the cars. Teen Kim has no driver’s license yet drives a standard shift Mercedes Benz in some of the narrowest streets in the world at high speeds with expert precision and accuracy, shifting between gears perfectly. It was the height of lunacy and Hollywood screenwriter convenience in the film. This absurdity passed through so many filters to make it on-screen that it could only mean that producers were looking for cash, not reality, not a good film, when they were editing this movie. This scene should be a DVD extra with the director’s commentary track stating that the scenario was a cool idea but was completely implausible and therefore was deleted from the film. Movies are about escapism and I would never argue that they are not but most people do not want to escape to the Bizarro World (Htrae) when they sit down to watch a film.
Through the entire scene Kim constantly says “I can’t” when prompted by her father to drive faster, to take this turn or that, to out race a train, and to burst into the inner sanctum of a military guarded embassy.
Taking a queue from Kim, here is what I couldn’t do while watching Taken 2: 1.) Get my ticket money back, 2.) Believe that an action movie could be so boring and suspense-less, 3.) Stop shaking my head at the apple pie, Hollywood, extremely happy ending slapped onto the film, 4.) Stop noticing that the boyfriend storyline was pointless and did nothing for the film’s narrative, 5.) Get the time I was wasting on the film back, and 6.) Stop wishing that I had Redboxed the film instead of seeing it in theater.
Taken 2‘s rehashed final-fight-before-getting-to-boss had a staged, UFC octagon feel to it. There was almost nothing organic about it. The camera panned around the fight like in The Book of Eli (without the blood and gore) but by that point, the viewer doesn’t expect anything more from the movie. Bryan is indignant about killing Marko in the first film. Marko’s father Murad (Rade Šerbedžija) is indignant about killing Bryan and his family for revenge in this film. By the end of Taken 2, the audience is indignant about the film’s circular plot that goes nowhere, morally or dramatically.
With theater and other revenue at stake, a third film in this franchise in probable. I hope that the kidnapping idea is abandon and that the storyline evolves beyond it. Who could they kidnap in the third film that could possibly need rescuing by Byran Mills? Don’t answer that.