Title: Taken 2
Director: Olivier Megaton
Writer: Luc & Robert Mark Kamen
Genre: French Action Thriller
Running Time: 91 minutes
Starring: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Rade Serbedzija
Taken, according to Liam Neeson and the creators, originally seemed to be an average B-Movie that would be released straight to DVD and may get a cult following. Instead, it was released in cinema, and to the surprise of many, catapulted Liam Nesson into a bonafide action star. Unsurprisingly, a sequel was quickly suggested, with Luc Besson interested, possibly hoping to create a new Transporter series.
Even before entering the cinema, my expectations were not that high. Luc Besson’s previous attempts at sequels, Transporter 2 and Transporter 3, had not been up to the standard created by the first film, itself a solid but average action film. One of the main strengths of Taken had been Liam Neeson, so no matter how bad the film could be, Liam Neeson was still likely to elevate the film above the lowest level. All I desired as I entered the cinema was something that would pass ninety minutes.
For the first forty minutes, I was surprised by how quickly I got into the film. In a refreshing change, here was an action sequel that actually built upon the previous movie. Whereas the first film portrayed Bryan Mills’ family as caricatures, Famke Janssen was Lenore the bitchy ex-wife, Maggie Grace was the underappreciative daughter Kim and a teenage party girl, and Bryan Mills loved them both. The emotional connection from Brian to his family drove the first film, and here, the emotional connection is rewarded. Relations between Bryan, Kim and Lenore have improved from the first film; Lenore is no longer a one-dimensional bitch but now likes Bryan again, their relationship slowing improving to where the idea of reconnecting hangs in the air, if not mentioned. Kim has also improved, in that whilst relations between her and Bryan are not perfect, she has come to appreciate him more. The fact that the supporting cast had developed from one film to another both shocked and excited me, surely this film cannot be that bad.
I was also happy that the villains were inspired from the first film, instead of just being another random band of people who could be facelessly killed, here, the villains were the extended family of those killed in the first film. Instantly, the villains have more impact as they are emotionally involved, in a role reversal of the first film. In the first film, the protagonist was emotionally involved as his daughter was kidnapped, and in the second film, the antagonist is emotionally involved as his children were killed in the original film. This should lead to the antagonists being more dangerous, ones who have no limits. Instead, they gradually revert back to faceless antagonists, just waiting to be killed.
The emotional aspect and the build-up through the first forty minutes felt strong and was gaining good will from me, wondering where the film had let others down? Granted, it was not The Dark Knight or The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers, but it wasn’t Prometheus. Then, the ‘action’ began.
First, there was a driving scene, that felt so pedestrian and devoid of tension, that I could have gone to sleep. Due to the streets that the driving scene existed in, I expected a driving scene along the lines of Drive, where it wasn’t break-neck speed, but full of tension still, having to appear inconspicuous. Instead, the entire scenes was stop-start, with a lack of tension built up, instead relying on car smashes to create ‘tension’. However, I may have been able to forgive that, if not for the fight scenes. The decision to aim for a 12A certificate may have offered more audience for the creators, but it leads to a neutered interpretation of fight scenes. When I see Bryan Mills fighting, I expect to see damage, to hear clicks and cracks of bones being broken. Instead, the action scenes consists of Bryan pushing and pulling the villains, devoid of any damage or tension. It also did not help, that the director decided to incorporate a choppy, kinetic cutting style to the fight scenes. This seemingly was done to capitalize on the style of the Bourne Series, except it wasn’t done as well, and at least in the Bourne Series, you can still have an idea of what is occurring. Here, I couldn’t tell what was occurring, it seemed more a choice to hide the lack of fighting that is required in an action film. In fact, I couldn’t believe it, this was an action film that failed at the action scenes.
Now, I will admit, the final fight scene, was more along the level I wanted, there was actual stakes felt, damage was being done, and there was tension. Unfortunately, by that point, the film had lost a lot of the goodwill that I had felt build up in the first forty minutes. I do actually feel that if Taken 2 had utilized the fight scenes from the first film, but kept the same plot and development, it could have equalled the level of Taken. Unfortunately, the lack of good action set pieces within Taken 2 led it to being inadequate in comparison. I will make mention of the performances by Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, and Famke Janssen, who help give their characters a sense of warmth missing from the previous film. I also was impressed by how much more involved Grace as Kim was, she has to rise to the occasion, which I felt she did adequately. There in fact, is a scene based on the rooftops of Istanbul, that revolves around Grace, and I felt that was a fantastic scene, was really drawing me back into the movie. And then, there was the driving scene.
I think the lack of good will to this movie is more due to the good build-up, which was then wasted on lacklustre action scenes. The plot of this movie is better than expected, but the action was worse than anticipated. I probably wouldn’t bother with this movie again, if only because I know it could have been so much better, and it annoys me watching a good start descend into a terrible middle and end. The performances are okay as well, which gives it an extra rating.
Thumbs Down, 5 out of 10