Taken 2 (review)
I’m “biast” (pro): usually find Liam Neeson fun to watch
I’m “biast” (con): wasn’t a big fan of the first film
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
If there’s one important lesson we can all learn from Taken 2, it’s this: Albanian sex-slavers are people, too, okay? Their mothers love them, and if you kill them, their fathers/bosses will hunt you down and kill you in return. They’ve got certain skills, you see, and they’re not afraid to use them.
And those certain skills appear to be a lack of peripheral vision, a tendency to keep one’s back turned to the direction danger is most likely to come in, and a refusal to heed one’s own guard dog when it is barking its doggy head off that “Liam Neeson is like right in the room, you idiots!”
This is, I assume, director Olivier Megaton intending to be funny. It’s not funny. It could also potentially be Megaton (Colombiana) intending to be subtle. And it’s about what you might expect from a filmmaker who calls himself “Megaton.”
If the anemic attempt returning screenwriters Luc Besson (Bandidas) and Robert Mark Kamen (The Karate Kid) deploy is any indication, Taken 3 will be nothing but Liam Neeson running around whatever European city ponies up the biggest tax credits, growling and beating up random swarthy passersby who look at him askew. It would be only a tiny step below this. See, what little that happens is, not long after professional badass Bryan Mills (Neeson: Battleship, Wrath of the Titans) rescued his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1, Knight and Day), from Albanian sex-slavers in Paris, the whole family — including Kim’s mom and Bryan’s ex, Lenore (Famke Janssen: X-Men: The Last Stand, Hide and Seek) — is in Istanbul. Just because. (See note about tax credits.) And it turns out that one good thing about being an international sex-slaver, as Murad (Rade Serbedzija: In the Land of Blood and Honey, X-Men: First Class) is, is that you’ve got guys in every major European city who can be on the lookout for the guy who killed your sons just because your boys wanted to auction off a pretty white girl’s virginity. (Some people are so sensitive, sheesh!) Bryan, for all his badassery, is unable to prevent himself and Lenore being kidnapped by revenge-seeking Murad’s goons. Though Bryan, mid-kidnap, is able, via phone, to guide Kim, still back at the hotel, through her own escape.
That’s right: Liam Neeson is Taken, Too!
Yeah, it’s ridiculous. For lots of reasons. The most glaring one: Maggie Grace was way too old to be prancing and giggling her way around Paris as a naive teenager back in 2008, for Taken, and now, at nearly 30 years of age, her little-girl act is downright bizarre. But the biggest oddity of Taken 2 is how dull it is. What modicum of humor there was in the first film is gone, and suspense is nonexistent. There’s little sense of jeopardy for Bryan and Family, not just because of the aforementioned Most Incompetent Bad Guys Ever, but also because all the laws of quantum physics are with Bryan: in one unintenionally hilarious bit, Bryan is able to retrace on foot the route he was taken while blindfolded in a car because the chicken he heard squawking outside is in the same exact place again days later. Chaos theory, schmaos theory. When the universe is this much on your side, you literally cannot lose.
What’s left? Tedious car chases, same-old fisticuffs, and some stuff I’m pretty sure Besson and Kamen stole from an episode of MacGyver almost as old as Maggie Grace. But we must be grateful for small favors: at least it’s not all in 3D.