Taken 2 (2012) / Thriller-Action
MPAA rated: PG-13 for violence and some sensuality
Running time: 91 min.
Cast: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Rade Serbedzija, Leland Orser, Jon Gries, D.B. Sweeney, Luke Grimes
Director: Olivier Megaton
Screenplay: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen
In an English-language film, one can sometimes get the sense of how much filmmakers are willing to try by seeing how they handle bad guys speaking in foreign languages. If the bad guys speak to the good, it is always in English. Often, in a lesser thriller, the bad guys speak to each other in English when they are on their own, where it is ambiguous as to whether it is translated for our convenience. However, in the laziest of examples of these kinds of movies, the bad guys speak to each other in English in front of the English-speaking good guys, so that everyone is always in the know at all times just what's going on. Taken 2 is one such lazy example, with a flimsy screenplay that seems like it could have been written in the course of a quiet afternoon.
It's difficult to believe that a sequel would be green-lighted with the same cast as the original Taken, as it would involve the same family getting kidnapped again, but, after the success of the first film, we've arrived again at just that. Taken 2 is mostly a carbon copy, with the same badass father taking down progressively difficult boss baddies in order to save his wife, daughter, or both.
The premise is basic: Ex-CIA Agent Bryan Mills (Neeson, The Dark Knight Rises) gets targeted for abduction and assassination at the hands of relatives of some of the men he had killed in the first movie. While vacationing in Istanbul, Turkey, the Albanian baddies, led by the tenaciously vicious Krasniqi (Serbedzija, Deathly Hallows Part I) , are out to get Mills and his wife Lenore (Janssen, X-Men The Last Stand) and daughter Kim (Grace, Knight and Day) at any cost.
Screenwriters Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen (Bandidas, Transporter 2) return to give us more of the same, i.e. just enough setup and situation to get us minimally invested in the characters plights before they find themselves in the middle of extended car chases, hand-to-hand battles to the death, and explosive action sequences galore. In their way, they give us the same screenplay they've turned in a dozen times before, featuring a seasoned professional killer protecting a younger female protagonist, while also teaching her how to become a fighter on her own.
What passes for tension involves such weak efforts as whether or not Mills' daughter (a teen, though Grace is pushing 30 years old) will pick up her cell phone in the nick of time so that dad can properly warn her that bad guys may be out to get her too. One has his would-be abductors letting him speak on the cell at length while he hatches seeds of his own escape. Ridiculous scenes such as seeing the same daughter throw grenades willy-nilly around the rooftops of Istanbul without so much as drawing a lick of attention from the overcrowded masses around her stretch the disbelief beyond the already tenuous breaking point. And I suppose it's some sort of joke that this same character, who is due to take her drivers test, gets a crash course, literally, in driving by having to evade several other cars while driving like a Hollywood stunt driver every second of the way.
Director Olivier Megaton (his last name at birth is Fontana), who has directed two previous Besson/Kamen screenplays with Columbiana and Transporter 3, keeps each shot to the maximum of two seconds in length, dropping down to about a half-second each whenever action comes into play. You can't see much of what's going on during a fistfight or a car crash, but Megaton is going to ensure that it is as frenetic and loud enough to make the difference. It's merely one slickly directed scene after another, without much to tax the brain in terms of interesting twists or nuanced characterizations. It delivers the goods in the action department, but with little genuine suspense, it's all built as a thrill ride without many legitimate thrills outside of wanton carnage on the city streets of Istanbul.
Taken 2 isn't a lot worse than the first Taken, but without offering much new, it will likely not please many who aren't just looking for more of the same. perhaps with a little more unique style, new developments and moments of choice comic relief, there would be something better to justify a return trip.
©2012 Vince Leo