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Taken 2 (Blu-ray Review)

So Taken 2, huh?  You think they could have came up with a “better” name like Taken Again, Retook, Taken Aback, Retake or whatever else you’re clever enough to come up with.  But regardless, when I first sat down in the theater to “take” in Taken 2, I was just overjoyed to have Liam Neeson back in the 2008 bada$$ action role that redefined his career after Jedi Master Qui Gon Jin nearly did him in.  I remember 2008’s Taken very fondly.  I remember vacationing down in Mexico and seeing Taken’s name plastered around every theater down there.  I had no idea what it was.  It wasn’t until I came back to the States that one of my friends said I just watched the most amazing action movie that had me on the edge of my seat.  When I asked him what movie he was referring to I nearly fell off my own rocker (literally speaking).  I instantly researched the film and saw that its last stop theatrically was in the United States, which at the time if you had a region free Blu-ray player, you could have been rocking out to the UK edition already.  Needless to say, I got my a$$ to the theater once it was released.  And wow!  Was that ever money well spent.  A Blu-ray purchase was a no-brainer.  But now we find ourselves presented with the S-word…the sequel.

Film 

Taken 2 takes place a year after 2008’s events in Paris and stars Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Jensen, Rade Serbedzija and Luke Grimes.  The Luc Besson production, directed by Olivier Megaton, finds our favorite dysfunctional family reunited in Istanbul.  Bryan Mills (Neeson) gets a surprise visit from his ex-wife, Lenore (the ever foxy Famke Janssen), and their beautiful daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace).  But Wait!  Life can’t always be this full of sunshine and puppies for Bryan.  Murad Hoxha (Rade Serbedzija) unleashes an all out war on Bryan as he seeks revenge for his son’s death  in Paris one year ago.  His thugs “take” Lenore hostage and forces Kim on the run across rooftops as Bryan must not only ensure the safety of his daughter, but also do what he does best…rescue his wife and eliminate all others.  Tell me something, people.  Does revenge get any sweeter than this?  Wow!

So how and why did this movie feel so flat to me?  Well for starters, things seem dull and dumbed/slowed down.  My only source happiness and obtained pleasure is seeing this dysfunctional family that we all came to love in the first one and all their quirks that make them tick play out again on the big screen again.  That family connection is what kept me interested and attentive throughout.  Without that, I’m afraid I would’ve felt the same way I do about Dredd, stone cold emotionless and detached.  And quite honestly, I’m not the only one who feels this way (excluding Dredd).  Taken 2 wasn’t well received by the media, critics and press.

However, there’s no denying the onscreen chemistry of Liam Neeson.  He nails the innocence and the brutality of his character (the yin-yang) perfectly again.  I’ll root for him no matter what.  Terrorists or wolves.  I don’t care.  Take them all out, Liam.  And then there’s Maggie Grace.  For a 29-year old actress, I have to say, she plays a pretty convincing 16-17 year old girl.  Why do I feel unlawful saying that?  Ha ha.  I want her legs…um I mean her in my movie.  But it’s the terrorists in this one that just don’t do it for me.  There wasn’t enough anger or passion behind the performance of Rade Serbedzija.  He wasn’t menacing enough and because of that lack of conflict in the antagonist, I never truly felt Liam’s character was ever in any imminent danger despite what was on the line.  And that’s sad because I feel like I was suppose to love this one, but the song that plays at the start of the end credits sums it up perfectly, in my opinion, when it proclaims “I feel like I’m too close to love you.”  Maybe that’s my problem here.  I’m too close to these characters and I want higher stakes and challenges for them.  And tell me this.  Are you supposed to laugh when our hero faces his final confrontation in a one-on-one throwdown?  I don’t think so, but I couldn’t help it.  Out of all the thugs to survive at the end, the one that does will have you in stitches when he poses the biggest threat to Bryan Mills in a hand-to-hand showdown.  Think Squiggy.

I think Casey Broadwater, reviewer over at blu-ray.com, says it best.  “Where the first Taken film is as crisp and energetic as, say, the Bourne movies, this new one is just going through the motions.”  Without Neeson in the titular title role, and the familiar family bonds of the first film, I’m afraid this one would have gotten a much lower score from me.  Needless to say, my film score is still probably the highest around for this flick.  What does that say about my taste in movies?  That was a rhetorical question, Gerard.

Video 

Taken 2 punches its way onto the Blu-ray format with a pretty solid 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer.  The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.38:1.  And despite the heavy grain at times, inherit from its 35mm capture, Taken 2 keeps things sharp throughout and I’m loving that.  The only times when things get a bit questionable here are during the blackest of scenes.  Overall, this film’s presentation, unlike the movie itself, rocks on its high-def debut.  The colors are all vivid and for the most part accurate, and no blemishes or artifacts are found throughout.  So I guess you can’t fault Taken 2 for its exceptional video on Blu-ray.  But how does the audio match up?  I’m glad you asked that.  Let’s take a closer look.

Audio 

Surprisingly, things are a little bit on the quiet side here.  Taken 2 lands on Blu-ray with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless surround track, but it lacks the superior oomph it really needs in my opinion.  And did I tell you how bad that title of Taken 2 irks me?  Can’t they have put more thought into it?  Geez!  But I digress.  For everything that happens on the screen here, fighting, bullets and all that jazz, it just doesn’t feel that impactful.  It’s not terribly bad, but dammit…just like the film itself…I WANT MORE.  The dialog is all loud and understandable and you certain can’t miss Mechaly’s score.  But I guess you can say I’m hung up on the lack of dynamics in the mix.  Oh well.  We all know this one’s not no winner, winner, chicken dinner.

The Blu-ray disc includes optional English SDH, Spanish, and Mandarin subtitles, Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs in Spanish and French for both cuts of the film.  You can also find a descriptive audio mix and a Dolby Digital 5.1 Mandarin dub exclusive to the theatrical cut.

Extras 

The Blu-ray features a new Unrated Cut and is loaded with special features including a Black Ops Field Manual and Kill Counter, Deleted and Extended Scenes, an Alternate Ending over 20 minutes long, Tools of the Trade interactive feature, and an FX Channel behind-the-scenes piece. The Combo Pack also comes with a DVD/Digital Copy disc and Ultraviolet.  But let’s say you and I “take” an even closer look at the extras.

  • Unrated and Theatrical Cut (HD) – The theatrical presentation clocks in at 1:32 while the Unrated is five minutes longer with a runtime of 1:38.  None of the film’s problems are fixed with the Unrated presentation, the version of the film I watched here.  It’s just basically extra fluff.
  • Black Ops Field Manual and Kill Counter (HD) – This feature is only accessible during Unrated version and features pop-up video style information such as maps, character facts, kill meters and even the distance traveled by Bryan.  That’s pretty cool, huh?
  • Tools of the Trade (HD, 3:32) – Here’s an interactive feature that plays short video clips in regards to the items and weapons in Bryan’s briefcase.  Very interesting!
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes (HD, 6:56) – Five deleted and one extended chase scene can be found here.
  • Alternative Ending (HD, 25:00) – Wow!  This one clocks in at 25-minutes long and is quite the game-changer compared to the regular ending in the film where we now find Lenore in the car with Bryan and daughter on the way to the embassy before he drops them off to do what he does best…kick a$$.
  • FX Piece: In Character with Liam Neeson (SD, 5:01) – Here’s a quick interview with Neeson discussing the importance of getting the sequel right.  No joke.  This is not a gag reel.
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:24) – I don’t think we need an explanation here.
  • DVD (SD) – The Blu-ray Combo Pack also comes with a DVD/Digital Copy disc and Ultraviolet.
  • Digital Copy – The Blu-ray Combo Pack also comes with a DVD/Digital Copy disc and Ultraviolet.
  • Ultraviolet – The Blu-ray Combo Pack also comes with a DVD/Digital Copy disc and Ultraviolet.  I’m starting to sound like a broken record, huh?

Summary  

So what it all comes down to is this.  Will your action needs be met?  I think so.  Will you have a good time laughing and hanging with the Mills family again?  I believe so again.  Will you feel satisfied with the story?  I’m not so sure.  I wanted more and that’s why it saddens me to score this film lower than what I thought it could instantly obtain from me with little effort.  The family and emotional elements made this a winner for me, but the challenges, obstacles and stakes our protagonist faced just fell flat in my opinion despite having to track his family down like a bloodhound in the streets of Istanbul.  Like its predecessor, the family issues make for a long Act 1, but it’s those issues that make it raw and emotional for me and keeps my care meter high.  Could there be a sequel?  Do fat kids love cake?  If you liked the first Taken, there’s no reason why you should completely shun this if for nothing else just to see Neeson lay this iconic role again.  Will you be “taken” if you blind buy this one?  Perhaps.  Why not rent first?  I’ll leave you with that to ponder.

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Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

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