Taken 2 (2012)
★ / ★★★★
After putting their dead in the ground, the enraged father of one of the deceased Albanians, Murad (Rade Serbedzija), bows to get revenge on Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), a former CIA operative who killed everyone who got in his way to rescue her daughter after she was kidnapped in Paris. When their mother-daughter-new beau trip to China is cancelled, Mills invites his Lenore (Famke Janssen) and Kim (Maggie Grace), his ex-wife and daughter, respectively, to join him in Istanbul. He works there for three days and, if they want, they can drop by and spend time together. And they do. However, sightseeing is set aside when the angry Albanians execute their plan to take Mills.
Although “Taken 2,” written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, is somewhat passable as an action-thriller, the technical elements utilized are not enough to save an otherwise very unambitious picture. There is enough material here to make a solid fifteen- to twenty-minute short film, but expanding it to a ninety-minute work means a lot of padding. Furthermore, a lot of the violence that transpire in Turkey’s largest city are weak, disposable, and unmemorable. There is a lack of energy behind scenes that should be exciting.
The set-up is cheesy and slow. While Neeson does a fairly good job playing a father who yearns to connect with his daughter on a deeper and a man who wants to be supportive of his former wife, the script is written superficially. Words that should communicate Mills missing his former life with his family come off silly at times. It is apparent that what we are seeing and hearing is the calm before the storm. Either the first act needed to be written more intelligently and with subtlety or it needed to have been eliminated completely and allowed the picture to start the moment the family are together in Istanbul. Why bother with introductory scenes when the approach is akin to sleepwalking?
The chase scenes are conventional, from cars slowly making their way through crowded streets to a desperate pursuit on the rooftops. No matter how nicely the would-be heart-pounding scenes are edited and put together, there is no masking the fact that there is barely energy coming from behind the camera. It feels like the same action sequence is shot about three times, but the director, Olivier Megaton, fails to hone in on what should be shown, how it should be approached, and when to break patterns in order to keep us on our feet. It is not that enjoyable to watch.
I appreciated the risk involving the daughter playing a key role in the action. At least for a while, it breaks the rhythm of Mills always having to be the one rescuing everybody. Though it is nice that Kim is capable of following instructions given by her dad, I would like to have seen her make more mistakes and less scenes of her jumping from one building to the next. Yes, adrenaline can help to overcome a person’s typical physical limitations. However, in this case, Kim’s mistakes would have been more interesting to watch than Kim looking like a trained government agent. Since the material leans toward the latter route, the picture lacks a down-to-earth human element.
“Taken 2” gets so stagnant at times that I caught myself noticing how tall Neeson is compared to the extras (and then snickering to myself afterwards). It should have been the complete opposite: a memorable thrill–or at least an element of surprise–every other minute that the holes in the plot end up unnoticeable because we are in the moment and at the same time wondering what else it has in store for us.