Taken 2 Review
by Bret Dorman
Let’s get something clear. I thought Columbiana was okay (I gave it a pretty generous rating despite the problems with the action). Transporter (Corey Yuen/LouisLetterier) and Transporter 2 (Louis Letterier) are awesome. Transporter 3? Hated it. Why? Because 1 and 2 highlight Statham’s actual ability to fight. 3 goes with the ultra shakey-cam, super close ups, and quick editing that are usually there to HIDE the fact the actors can’t really fight. WTF? Luckily Taken 2 has the badass presence of Neeson with some of that frenetic action scaled back just a bit.The Story: Bryan Mills (THE Liam Neeson) goes to Istanbul to do some security stuff. There he meets up with ‘sort of estranged but possible love interest’ ex-wife Lenore aka Lenny (Famke Janssen) and ‘still shaken up about the last time but has a boyfriend now’ daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). Bryan and Lenny are kidnapped and Kim insists on helping them escape. The badguy is Murad (Rade Serbedzija, who most people will probably know as Boris the Blade in Snatch). Also, there’s a lot of wasted driving jokes.
I’m sure many people will find fault with the story of Taken 2. It’s ridiculous. Sure. But I’m in it for a good time. So whatever. The first 20 minutes trudge through the basic catching up. The family from the people killed in the first movie want revenge. Bryan is a control freak of sorts who is very much obsessed with keeping a tight schedule. Lenny is having husband/boyfriend (?) troubles. And Kim has failed two or three driving tests (important!) and has a boyfriend, who Bryan finds and intimidates. Classic! That and Bryan has a cookout with his friends that includes tons of meat, some beers, and casual chit chat about wanting to talk about basketball for God’s sake!Luckily this hum drum set up is just the first 20 minutes. Once the whole family gets to Istanbul the pacing picks up (it’s not until about 30 minutes the events that kick the action into high gear actually start). Bryan picks up on the threat immediately which is nice. He’s a pro and these scumbags are amateurs. Sure they get the drop on him and his ex-wife but he manages to put up a decent fight. Kim has a little moment of tension that is sloppily defused by the bad guys making a mess of things.
Next, Bryan takes control of the situation by guiding Kim to save him. This. Is. Awesome. We get to see Bryan actually talk out his thought process and do some pretty incredible things while being basically incapacitated. He busts out and goes on the rampage. Boo-ya. Kim then has to have a very intense car chase where she expertly drives a stick shift through the tight streets of Istanbul while being shot at. Huh. And this is the girl who failed two or three driving tests (on purpose she alludes). But I get it. It’s funny to make fun of, but the movie treats it as if nothing is out of place. At this point in the movie you’ve got to acknowledge it, even if its just a joke. I mean, why wouldn’t you? Have some fun? Where’s that quirky Besson humor I’ve grown to love?Bryan then expertly re-tracks down his kidnappers and puts an end to them to stop them from coming back again. However, at this point in the movie it is becoming painfully obvious how old Neeson is. What makes the action work is not the choreography or dizzying camera, but Neeson’s screen presence. Neeson grunts when he throws a punch as well as bends over to pick up a gun. His actions are limited to dodge, sluggish punch, sneak attack, and throat chop. Granted, while the first movie has the most throat chops ever in a movie, Taken 2 has some but becomes less of a trademark for Neeson’s character.
Taken was less about the action and more about the fast paced feverish nightmare of trying to “track down one person in a city of 12 million” (so expertly recited by Janssen in this movie, in case you forgot). Some ‘action’ movies are less about action and more about that badass presence of a main character with a specific set of skills who fights back and doesn’t opt for the usual nice guy holding back (i.e. The Punisher). The shining moments are the moments in which the tracking is taking place, not necessarily the fist and/or gun fights. This movie does really cement the hide and seek aspect; however, since it does understandably want to be an action movie too, I have to say the action was average at best. Nothing particularly stuck out. Lot’s of one on one take downs that, once again, showcase Neeson’s age a bit. The car chase had a nice mixture of being able to see some crashes, but was cut way too fast to appreciate the carnage itself.I guess, since I heard so many bad things about Taken 2 and I’m still a bit sore over Columbiana and still furious over Transporter 3 I was ready to go in hating this. However, I was pretty pleased overall. Not a huge disaster, but lot’s of wasted potential. Like the ending, where Kim once again goes for her driving lesson. They don’t acknowledge the crazy car chase she was in at all. I try to stay away from what movie should have done, but I was hoping for an exchange like this between Bryan and his daughter:
“Well, did you pass?!”
“Dad, I drove a Turkish cab through the streets of Istanbul while evading gunmen and the police. What do you think?” (holds out paper that says she passed)
“I knew you could do it!”
“I learned from the best!”
But no. No fun or in-jokes like that whatsoever. Just her passing and him smiling. The End.
In Conclusion, Taken 2 is a fine sequel. I get why they wanted the Maggie Grace character to be more in the action and I get why the ex-wife was having relationship troubles so our hero could have a romantic through line. I get why the action was choppy. Could I hope for more? Sure, but what I got was good enough. And the line from the trailer about the main baddies remaining sons? Total badass right on par with the first one’s special skill set speech. I hope Megaton keeps improving. Even if it’s bit by bit.
Final Grade (B-; for its tracking skillz)
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