TAKEN 2 Takes the Lazy Road to Sequel Money
Movie Review by John D. Harvey
When I posted to Facebook that I was going to review TAKEN 2, Rogan Russell Marshal (who wrote ATTIC EXPEDITIONS (2001) and FREEZER BURN (2005)) posted a comment reading (in part) “Harvey, don’t you think you can review TAKEN 2 just based on the previews and clips? (I’m not really kidding… it’s rare that I think a picture reveals itself so thoroughly, so quickly…).”
What is on its face a cynical, semi-snarky comment turned out to be painfully prophetic, except for the fact that the previews and trailers for TAKEN 2 give one at least a sliver of hope that the movie might be marginally enjoyable even if it’s entirely predictable. You know going into the theater that the first TAKEN (2008) established a formula for any sequel (someone gets kidnapped, Liam Neeson kicks ass, everyone lives happily ever after, roll credits). But, the hope is that along the way the writers and director will deliver some new fun in the form of great action, some smart comedy beats, or perhaps even some new character development that adds a fresh perspective or twist to the formula.
Yeah … so there’s none of that in TAKEN 2.
TAKEN 2 is a shining example of a movie sequel where everyone involved in its making felt solely obligated to filling a 90-minute bag with 90 minutes of lazy crap, collecting their paychecks, and then going home. It’s huge shame, because I (like many people) thoroughly enjoyed the original TAKEN.
The plot (such as it is…) goes like this. In the aftermath of the first movie, Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) goes to Istanbul, Turkey, to work a private security gig for a billionaire. Once finished, he invites his young daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) and his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) to fly over for a few days of sight-seeing. Lenore has recently separated from her husband, thus making it possible for Bryan to get his nuclear family put back together again.
Little do they know that the Albanian crime family/syndicate that Bryan shot to bits in the first movie has also come to Istanbul to seek revenge on both Bryan and his family. Beyond this point exists a series of low-octane, stock chase sequences, choppy fight scenes that look like the cameraman was having some sort of massive seizure during the filming, and plot turns that do not even try to maintain any form of credulity or sense even in the context of a pulpy action/adventure film.
Perhaps one of the silliest sequences (amongst a long list of such…) in the film involved Bryan and his daughter attempting to pinpoint a vital but unknown location within Istanbul via the use of a map, shoestring, the direction of the wind, and lobbing not one but SEVERAL live hand grenades within the confines of the densely-populated city. And, apparently one can set off a bunch of hand grenades in Istanbul without a massive reaction from the local police or military. There’s something you won’t find in a Frommer’s Travel Guide!
As far as the acting goes, across the board everyone dials in their performances. Both the written dialogue and delivery is ham-fisted and on the nose. And the bad guys are nothing to write home about. In the original TAKEN, the Albanians were portrayed as brutal, scary Eastern European thugs, whereas in TAKEN 2 the same enemy has become cartoonish and clumsy. Also, the Albanians’ Muslim faith suddenly gets inserted into the mix, bringing forth a subtle xenophobia that is both lazy and pandering.
The first TAKEN succeeded because it was smartly written, brutal, efficient, and gritty. Meanwhile, TAKEN 2 fails utterly because it is lazy, clumsy, outlandish, and (unintentionally) comedic. I can’t even recommend it as a rental.
Perhaps a good sign is that when Liam Neeson was asked by Jon Stewart on THE DAILY SHOW if there was going to be a TAKEN 3, the actor immediately slashed his hand at his throat in an obvious “no more” gesture. This suggests that even Neeson recognizes TAKEN 2 didn’t do any favors for fans of the original movie.
RUN TIME: 1hr 31min
DIRECTOR: Oliver Megaton
WRITERS: Luc Besson (screenplay) and Robert Mark Kamen (screenplay)
CAST: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Rade Serbedzija, and Leland Orser
© Copyright 2012 by John D. Harvey
John Harvey gives TAKEN 2 ~ NO knives!