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, I’m 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.
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? I don’t know, but it just did. Things seemed dull and slowed down. Maybe it will be a thrill ride the second time around for me, but I’m not too optimistic about it. My main source happiness and obtained pleasure was 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 did about Dredd, stone cold emotionless and detached. And quite honestly, I’m not the only one who feels this way. Taken 2 hasn’t been well received early on by the critics so I know it’s not me.
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 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.
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 the 4 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. I solemnly do recommend a visit to your local theater this weekend. Perhaps a matinee? Enjoy!