taken 2 movie poster Taken 2
Director: Olivier Megaton
Writers: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen
Stars: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Rade Serbedzija

I’ll say it up front and get it out of the way: I’m a major fan of Liam Neeson movies, especially when he kicks ass and takes names. We’re all entitled to a few guilty pleasures.

The first movie I reviewed on my blog was The Grey. I was at an advance screening and I was awed by the combination of nature, violence, and philosophy. And Liam Neeson, of course. Fighting wolves (even if they were animatronic). With his bare hands.

A few months later, when I started reviewing movies for buzzymag, it was the weekend Battleship opened–fun enough, but more Liam Neeson sure would have helped . . . .

Now we come ’round to Taken 2, follow up to the 2008 surprise hit (Taken).

I so wanted this to be awesome. I wanted it to be a go-see-it-more-than-once-while-it’s-still-in-the-theater kind of film. It’s fun enough, but the missed details messed things up. And watering down the violence for the PG-13 rating really hurt it. I like my violent revenge shoot-’em-up thrillers, well, violent. Maybe the dvd version will be better . . . ?

I really like the concept of justice versus revenge that was touched on briefly. And how the cycle will never end until someone consciously stops it.

I had some concerns when the opening credits ran and they were choppy and hard to watch. Those concerns were well founded, as much of the rest of the film followed the same pattern, especially the fight scenes and the car chases–fast camera cuts leaving you wondering what the heck is going on. Exactly where did that last punch land? Did it land? I admit this was a touch compounded by my insistence on sitting right up front–I’ve always found the movie-going experience more immersive that way, and lately I’ve also found it helps with taking notes during the films–there’s a touch more light down there.

Spoilers follow. You have been warned.

In Taken, the filmmakers were happy to admit that they were in a foreign country, and sometimes the people spoke in French or Albanian. This was even a plot point in figuring out where the bad guys were from–yet in Taken 2, Albanians in Albania speak English . . . this is trying too hard to be a big Hollywood film.

The plot was sloppy: one stated deadline is to get things done before Bryan Mills goes to Istanbul. This seems kind of lame when you find out he’s only going for three days. Couldn’t he just come back home and do stuff? I don’t know about you, but I go away for three-day weekends all the time.

Bryan’s daughter Kim drives damn well for someone without a driver’s license. Even if she is close to passing the driving test, her lack of road experience makes the sequences of her driving through Istanbul at breakneck speed even less likely than, say, Dr. Martin Harris (Unknown) pulling the same stunt in Berlin. Is Kim secretly an assassin?

The first movie was absolutely relentless in its pacing–that’s one of the things that made it so awesome. Taken 2 keeps faltering as it tries to build in more relationships and family bonding–for whatever reason, this just interrupts the flow. Despite the danger, the movie lacks a sense of urgency in what’s going on. It’s almost two different movies that got crammed together: a fast-paced action thriller, and a family drama–they keep interfering with one another.

The setup that shows the Albanians driving into Istanbul makes it look like Bryan Mills has a limited number of targets–three SUVs worth–it’s just a war of attrition. The first movie came right out and said that the Paris authorities had no idea how many sex-traffickers there were in town, just that it started with a few and now there were a ton of them. A semi-infinite number of bad guys for him to plow through. Will Taken 3 be Bryan Mills takes on three guys on bicycles with a dog?

Of course, I’d probably go see it anyway, as long as Liam Neeson was in it . . . .

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