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TAKEN 2 – Review
A sequel to the 2008 action thriller TAKEN was probably inevitable, given that movie’s astonishing success worldwide. The makers of TAKEN 2 have stuck as close as possible to the original formula with the same actors, the same high-octane mixture of violence and pursuit, the same assertion of family values. The location has shifted from Paris to Istanbul, but otherwise TAKEN 2 could virtually pass for a remake. With more funds to lavish on production values and this time the advantage of a precedent, there’s every prospect of similar causes leading to similar effects at the box-office. Whatever novelty there was watching Neeson go commando in 2008′s TAKEN is gone in the sequel, a mix of third-rate action, dreary family melodrama, laughable bad guys and even more laughable plot devices.
TAKEN 2 is set a year later, and deals with the consequences of the first film’s bloody rampage. On a hillside in Albania, a funeral’s taking place for the people Mills slaughtered back in France. One of them is Murad (Rade Serbedzija), the father of a luckless goon who Mills had electrocuted in a Paris basement. “The man who has brought us such pain and suffering,” seethes Murad, “we’ll find him. We will have our revenge.”
Returning writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Karmen appear to have their tongues tucked in their cheeks for TAKEN 2. Mills’ survival and combat abilities are almost superhuman here, and some moments of dialogue run headlong into self-parody. “Your mother and I are going to be… taken,” Mills says in one scene, and it’s a wonder how Neeson resisted the urge to wink at the camera after he uttered it. There’s one decent joke in a movie that is otherwise played perfectly straight, a second breakneck car-chase through the souk in which Mills is in the passenger seat, the wheel taken by his daughter who, we’ve been informed early on, has flunked her driver’s permit twice and has been skipping driving lessons.
Directed by Olivier Megaton, a journeyman helmer in the Besson stable (Transporter 3, Colombiana), Taken 2 is in some ways a more polished product than its predecessor, taking full advantage of its exotic locations and pacing its action sequences more successfully. The villains are still cardboard cutouts and the general level of characterization is skin-deep. But the filmmakers know precisely what they are doing, and ultimately whether it’s a good or a bad movie is beside the point.
Taken was livened up considerably by Neeson’s charismatic performance, and he’s similarly effective in the sequel. It’s a relief, too, to see Maggie Grace given a bit more to do this time around, even if she is a bit too old to be playing a teenager. Famke Janssen, on the other hand, is sorely underused, and spends much of the film fading in and out of consciousness as the narrative requires.
Lacking in surprises or suspense, Taken 2 merely rehashes sequences from the first film to diminished effect. The decision to relocate the action from Paris to Istanbul reads more like an attempt to hide how similar the two films are than introduce an unusual cultural backdrop, and if anything, the rather unpleasant streak of xenophobia present in Taken is even more pronounced in the sequel. Neeson is utterly convincing as the anger-fueled but soft-spoken action hero, the personification of the regular guy pushed to the limit in defense of his family, and it’s hard to see the Taken franchise succeeding without him. Moviegoers who liked Taken and want more of the same will get precisely that.
2 out of 5 Stars