Remember how much fun ‘Taken‘ was? It was the little low-budget action movie that could. All it needed was a few bullets and a rugged Liam Neeson to kick the stuffing out of swarthy Eastern European sex-slave traders. How difficult is it to follow that formula? Apparently, for ‘Taken 2’, that was impossible.
‘Taken 2’ makes one fatal flaw early in the movie. It assumes that since we rooted for Liam Neeson to rescue his daughter in the first movie, that we actually cared about what was going on in his daughter’s life. Maggie Grace, who plays Kim, was basically asked to look scared and cry a lot in the first movie. That suited her and her character. We only cared about how much sex-slave trader butt Neeson could kick before our 90 minutes of time with him ran out. Here, writer Luc Besson presumably thinks that we care enough about Kim to want to know stuff about her in the sequel – stuff like how she has a new boyfriend and how she still cannot pass her driver’s license test (more on this later, unfortunately).
Rade Sherbedgia has made a career as the go-to actor if you need a scruffy, dangerous looking Eastern European terrorist/gangster. Here he plays Murad, and Murad is sad. See, Bryan Mills (Neeson) killed a whole bunch of sex-slave traders in the first movie that he really liked, one of them being his own son. So, now Murad has sworn vengeance. It’s a good thing that Mills is doing security detail in Istanbul and that his family has decided to join him. Cue the unwashed, bearded men to move in and kidnap Mills like it’s their job or something.
At this point, the movie has a chance to right the collective wrongs it produced in the first 20 minutes. What it should say is: “OK, let’s just forget all that stuff about Kim and her ridiculous storyline. It’s time for a full-tilt Liam Neeson beat-a-thon for the next 60 minutes!” If only that would’ve happened.
Instead, we get a neutered version of ‘Taken’ that’s chock-full of Kim running around Istanbul, trying to help out her kidnapped dad. We actually get scenes of Kim running over rooftops as she throws grenades to and fro in hopes that her dad will hear the explosions and figure out where she is relative to his position. Throwing live grenades in the middle of a bustling Istanbul is just as shockingly irresponsible as Martin Lawrence and Will Smith careening down a hillside shanty town in ‘Bad Boys 2’.
Pouring salt into this already gaping wound is the idea that Kim’s need to drive in a few high-speed car chases will help her pass her driver’s test. Like we really needed a pay-off for that story arc.
There’s nothing even remotely exciting about ‘Taken 2’. Bryan fights the world’s most inept gangsters. These guys are so bright that they leave the man who killed approximately 45 of their countrymen zip-tied to a bar without a guard. Not chains, no fancy electric shock devices… just a simple zip-tie like cops use on belligerent drunks.
The fight scenes are a mess of sloppy editing and uninspired choreography. The film is a disappointment from start to finish without even any cool fight scenes to provide a little satisfaction. It’s a lazy, good-for-nothing cash grab.