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Taken 2 (2012)

March 26, 2013

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written by: Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen

produced by: Luc Besson

directed by: Olivier Megaton

rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sensuality)

runtime: 91 min.

U.S. release date: October 5, 2012

DVD/Blu-ray release date:  January 15, 2013

 

As far as action movies go, 2008’s “Taken” was pretty decent. Some surprisingly effective casting, an impressive body count, and European locations provided quite the formula for success. A hit with audiences, it not surprisingly produced, what else? A sequel, an unnecessary repetitive one at that. Oh, boy, here we go with 2012’s “Taken 2”.

Having rescued his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), from sex traffickers and the Albanian mob in Europe, former CIA specialist Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is back in Los Angeles working as a security official for all sorts of international types. He’s grown closer to Kim since the rescue, and is even on good terms with ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen). The relationship is good enough that Kim and Lenore visit Bryan after he finishes a job in Istanbul, a hopefully relaxing trip. Not so fast. The Albanian gangsters who he dispatched saving his daughter have organized and want nothing more than exacting revenge for their fallen comrades, especially mafioso Murad Krasniqi (Rade Šerbedžija). All the underworld is looking for Bryan, and Murad and his army of vengeful mobsters are closing in. Can Bryan save his family from a brutal death?

 

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I’ve had this conversation with my aunt several times before, and I keep coming back to the same thing. She questions why Neeson takes these more commercial (some would say dumb) action movies as opposed to showing off his acting chops. I love Neeson in either so let’s say this; Liam Neeson is cooler than you. He’s cooler than me. There aren’t many people who can keep up with him in terms of pure badass-ness (Yes, I’m making up words again). Seeing him as a brutally capable CIA operative has been my biggest reasoning for checking out both movies, and he doesn’t disappoint. He’s more than believable as Mills, trained and ready to use a very unique set of skills to get some very dangerous missions done. Above all else, it’s fun to see Neeson in these more commercial parts.

Unfortunately though, having watched this unnecessary sequel, I’m forced to say that Neeson is one of the only good things about this flick. Having written and directed the first movie, Luc Besson only writes this one, passing off the directing reins to Olivier Megaton (2011’s “Columbiania”) . Did he not like his script? I certainly didn’t. It comes across as both lazy and rushed at the same time. Take away the closing credits, and it only runs 86 minutes. Not bad for an action movie? You’d think, but the first half hour plays like an after school special about a single dad looking out for his daughter — who has a new boyfriend (Luke Grimes) — while also trying to get ex-wife Lenore through some difficult times in her second marriage. Who cares?!? Let’s get to Neeson killing nameless bad guys! The final scene actually has Neeson, Grace, Janssen and Grimes sitting at an ice cream parlor laughing it up over…..I don’t know, something amusing.

I’m not against all sequels when handled correctly. Take the characters and situation we like, and develop something, add something new. Don’t settle for the same old, same old. So it doesn’t seem like I’m completely ripping this one, ‘2’ does try something new. What is that you ask? Take what made the first one entertaining, and pack it into about 48 minutes of non-stop action. By my count, Bryan and Lenore are kidnapped, but everything is righted and back to normal within an hour or two in real-time. Escaping from the Albanians (Oh, no, quasi-spoilers!), he finds Kim and manages to re-find the place within maybe 12 minutes. He chases some Albanians, some Albanians chase him, usually meeting a graphic PG-13 ending, and then — as mentioned — Bryan and family go out for some well-deserved ice cream. It is fun to watch because it plays so quickly, never slowing down, but that doesn’t mean it’s even remotely good.

 

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As for that action, ‘2’ continues to use the ultra-fast, hyper-kinetic editing that makes the actual action pretty much indecipherable. What exactly is the point? Do producers/directors/editors/studios think this looks cool? It never did. Slow things down, and actually let the viewing audience see all the cool fight moves, not a blur that’s gone in a second. Oh, and in the criminally underused department, Leland Orser, Jon Gries, and D.B. Sweeney play Bryan’s former C.I.A. cohorts. They’re introduced — just like in the original — but do absolutely nothing except for a horrifically stupid scene late in the movie.

Beyond all the dumb choices in storyline and over-edited action, I think this is a movie that is simply stupid. It reminded me of “The Expendables I” and “II“, movies interested in nothing other than action. Scene transitions, explanations, all those good little things that average movies take advantage of are brushed off to the side here. At one point, Bryan literally disappears from a car while cornered. There is no physical way for him to have escaped sight unseen other than he’s really cool and has cool guy skills. Later, Bryan and Kim crash through the security gate at the American Embassy in Istanbul. Bryan calls Orser’s Sam and tells him to call the Embassy and tell them not to shoot him and Kim. That’s dumb in itself, but when we next see Bryan? He’s hunting Albanians again. The movie is in too much of a rush to even show how him and Kim got out of that sticky situation in a freaking heavily guarded American Embassy. Dumb much?

Okay, I’m surprising myself here. I’m disliking this movie more and more as I write this review. Neeson is cool, but it’s just not very good. And come on, are you telling me that Kim, survivor of almost being a sex slave, would be so willing to go back to international travel? Eh, that’s just one apparently minor complaint I had for a pretty bad movie. Ouch, this one lands with a thud. Oh, Istanbul looks cool so there’s a positive.

 

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RATING: *

 

 

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