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Movie Review: Taken 2 (2012)

Runtime: 1 hour, 31 minutes
Rated: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, 
and some sensuality)
Director: Olivier Megaton
Writers: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen
Starring: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace
Action | Crime | Drama

To all who enjoyed the wild ride that was Taken (2008), we have Taken 2, its lackluster sequel that – if nothing else – brings us more of something the first film offered up. Yes, it really does offer up the same goodies.

And that something is a stark-naked plot that nicely lays out for us an action movie, the kind that so many older audience members will more easily relate to.

On the film’s timescale, it hasn’t been too long since “Kim” (Maggie Grace) was abducted and rescued by dad. Kim is still working through the psychological issues of being kidnapped, and part of her recovery has been a new boyfriend that (dad being dad) is suspicious of and doesn’t like. Meanwhile, mom, “Denore” (Famke Janssesn), is separated from her husband pending what promises to be a bitter divorce.

When other plans fail, the once-family seems to be getting along nicely and decides to follow dad over on a work trip to Istanbul. But from the opening of the film, we watch as the Russians (whose family and friends were killed during Mill’s rescue of Kim) are mourning. They are now plotting revenge with the Russian leader of the human traffickers (Rade Serbedzija) who holds an altogether special hatred for Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson).

With the right resources and strings pulled, the bad guys are soon able to intercept the family in Istanbul, and from there, we watch the retired CIA field agent fly back into action and do what he does best. And that, friends, is all there is to the story. You can certainly guess how things are going to unfold from this point.

Taken 2 has generated some awful reviews and a wicked-low Rotten Tomatoes score. And while many of the issues plaguing the film are, of a truth, real issues, it seems some are missing the point of a movie like Taken 2. It should be considered odd that the first Taken was not much different than its descendant, just a little better. And it, too, was not very fondly regarded by critics.

Reflecting back, this was what we saw in Taken; the characters were shallow, but it didn’t bother us too much because the one character we needed to know the most about, Bryan Mills, was full of detail and determination. We’re talking Bruce Willis’ Die Hard determination to keep his cool and succeed against clearly impossible odds. And with all the weak and poorly constructed action sequences, we still got the point of the first movie and it can be summarized in that oft-repeated segment that we’ve all nearly got memorized...
“I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you. ”
With sloppier camerawork and much lazier attention to detail, this one is giving us exactly the same things. It is never very hard to see that the base-level performances were not a priority, or that the movie not only doesn’t avoid clichés, but actually builds the entire film around them.

Everything from villains giving speeches before attempted kills to guards not watching their captives, to a bad guy being given a gun without bullets, to a pursuing car getting hit by a train after the fleeing protagonist’s near-miss...it’s all packed in here in bulk-buyer quantities (and those aren't the half of them). These lazy fillers do get tiring, but it isn’t so bad in this context. While the previous film was better, it wasn’t by that much. Watch them back-to-back and then tell me I’m wrong.

Neeson has no gray hair at all this time, but the darkness changes from shot to shot. Odd for a 60-year-old man, don’t you think? It looks as if he’s trying to appear much younger, maybe to look more like a romantic match for Janssen. But back to what matters, let’s not be guilty of missing the point. The improbabilities and inevitable happy ending are part of what makes this movie watch-worthy for action buffs who can stand to overlook a number of flaws (again, same as with the first film).

Bryan Mills is a badass, an old badass, but a badass nonetheless. He’s a match for Bauer or Bond, but maybe not quite Bourne, although we’d root for him every bit as much. In the final analysis, Taken II is exciting. It keeps us watching because we know Mills is going to come out on top. It’s what he does. Taken 2 is by no means a standout film, but it’s called standard action fare, folks. And like other movies this year with grievous problems that make passing them a hard sell, it still passes.

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