[Review] – Taken 2

14 Oct

Title: Taken 2
Year: 2012
Director: Olivier Megaton
Writers: Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen
MPAA Rating: PG-13, intense sequences of violence and action, and some sensuality
Runtime: 91 min
IMDb Rating: 6.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 21%
Metacritic: 45

The success of Taken back in 2008 was one of the best storylines of that movie year. Pierre Morel‘s film, made by Luc Besson‘s EuropaCorp empire that just produces these mid-level-budget action flicks like clockwork, was a true sleeper hit back in February of 2009. That’s right, the film is a 2008 feature and had premiered that year in many countries but for some reason had its U.S. release held back, eventually being released in the summer of 2009, not only a month that’s seen as a dumping spot for movies but also on the same weekend that the Pittsburgh Steelers won Super Bowl XLIII, so it’s not as though that many people were going to be out and about that weekend.

Still, the film surprised, scoring the best opening day ever for a Super Bowl weekend and topping that whole weekend with a gross of over $24 million. But the real stunning part of its box office run was the legs it showed, being in the Top 5 for eight consecutive weekends and not only posting some seriously small declines from one weekend to the next but actually making $3 million more on its fourth weekend than it did on its third. That kind of stuff just doesn’t happen and it proved that this was a film that was enjoying some ridiculously positive word-of-mouth, and the $25 million flick ended up making $145 million domestically and over $225 million worldwide.

The best thing about Taken‘s success, however, is probably the fact that it absolutely redefined Liam Neeson‘s career. He’s the reason the film’s so good, because I really do think it’s a damn awesome movie, and he became this bonafide action star for the more adult crowd pretty much overnight, starring in last year’s Unknown and this year’s The Grey. So of course after that kind success Taken 2 was a given (and considering it’s already made over $145 million worldwide in less than two weeks I think you can expect a Taken 3 soon), and even though it’s a fun movie and Mr. Neeson is still sheer awesome at kicking ass it’s most definitely a considerable step below the quality of its predecessor.

Don’t get me wrong, I stilly enjoyed Taken 2 quite a bit, probably more than I should have, to be honest, but it’s just not the same thing as the first one. The thrills of the first one just aren’t here, those surprising moments that made you go “oh shit” and marvel all the more at Mr. Nesson’s Bryan Mills’ abilities to get himself out of a pickle aren’t as stunning here. Maybe because we’ve seen it before, maybe because this takes an even more formulaic approach, I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel the same. When the first one was utterly sleek this one seemed rather ham-handed and messy, I just wasn’t able to get into it as much as I would have liked to.

This time around Bryan is targeted by the families of all the people he so brilliantly killed off in the first film in order to rescue his kidnapped daughter. He’s in Istanbul for work and Kim, his daughter, as well as Lenore, his ex-wife, join him to spend a few days holidaying, Kim hoping that their parents can rekindle their relationship. So what happens is that he’s actually kidnapped alongside Lenore and, with his advice, Kim manages to escape and become a pivotal part in assisting her dad to break free and get all of them to safety.

There’s a lot of laziness to this film, I’ll admit to that, most easily illustrated by the fact that it relies so damn much on flashbacks to scenes of the first one in order to achieve some semblance of character development. I’m not saying that the first one was a classic (though it’s kind of become one by now) but the dialogue of that one was instantly quotable while the one here is just kind of laughable most of the time. I really don’t think Taken 2 is a good film and yet I have to be honest and give it a recommending grade because I still liked it a fair amount.

Yes, you can focus on the many things that just go against whatever kind of logic or plausibility you could imagine here, one of which includes the fact that Kim, who at the beginning of the film we learn has failed her driver’s exam twice already, drives stick through the crowded streets of Istanbul in a kinetic car chase with people shooting at her without much of a problem. But it works because the cast is just so game for this, they don’t put out condescending performances, they’re super serious about the stuff they’re performing and director Olivier Megaton knows you’re paying to get action and, alongside Luc Besson who co-wrote and produced this one, is damn sure to provide just that.

Liam Neeson is just great in this role. He has the imposing physical presence to make you believe he can kick some ass and you believe he also has the smarts Bryan Mills showcases so often, not to mention that the fact that he’s an actually good actor and not the typical guy that’s cast in these movies makes you believe the more human side of Bryan. He’s the reason you’ll go to watch Taken 2, because there is indeed an “I need you to calm down and listen very carefully” phonecall and that’s just all you can want from this one, even if it’s nowhere as good as the original was. The Grey is still the best Liam Neeson film of 2012, to be honest, but, yeah, go watch Taken 2, it’s pretty good.

Grade: B

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2 Responses to “[Review] – Taken 2”

  1. BigBear85 October 15, 2012 at 2:04 am #

    I haven’t seen Taken 2 but I agree with the Grey it was absolutely fantastic say it in theaters and bought the blu-ray. I am not a drama fan but man was tht such a good action drama with thriller elements.

  2. colincarman October 15, 2012 at 9:14 am #

    TAKEN is one of action cinema’s recent bests; the sequel seems like an unnecessary exercise to rake in more money…great review!

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