Taken 2 review

Review Ryan Lambie 18 Sep 2012 - 22:00

Liam Neeson returns as retired CIA operative Bryan Mills in the sequel to 2008’s Taken. Here’s our review of Taken 2…

In 2008’s Taken, Liam Neeson starred as the seemingly indestructible Bryan Mills, an ex-CIA operative whose daughter was snatched by Albanian gangsters while on holiday in Paris. Vowing to “Tear the Eiffel Tower down” if he had to, Mills set about shooting, stabbing and torturing his way across the city of romance. 

Taken 2 is set a year later, and deals with the consequences of the first film’s bloody rampage. On a hillside in Albania, a funeral’s taking place for the people Mills slaughtered back in France. One of them is Murad (Rade Serbedzija), the father of a luckless goon who Mills had electrocuted in a Paris basement. “The man who has brought us such pain and suffering,” seethes Murad, “we’ll find him. We will have our revenge.”

Over in Los Angeles, life’s returned to relative normality for Bryan Mills. He enjoys waxing his car, flirting with his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen), and still has a creepily keen interest in the day-to-day teen antics of his teenage daughter Kim (Maggie Grace).

Bryan’s CIA training and obsession with small details comes in extremely handy, however, when he arranges an impromptu holiday to Istanbul. There, Murad’s gang plan to kidnap the Mills family and do terrible things to them, and only Bryan’s lightning reflexes and homing pigeon-like sense of direction will save them. 

Returning writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Karmen appear to have their tongues tucked in their cheeks for Taken 2. Mills’ survival and combat abilities are almost superhuman here, and some moments of dialogue run headlong into self-parody. “Your mother and I are going to be… taken,” Mills says in one titter-inducing scene, and it’s a wonder how Neeson resisted the urge to wink at the camera after he uttered it.

For the first 45 minutes, this sense of the absurd keeps Taken 2 afloat. As Bryan, Kim and Lenore run, drive and fight to avoid the clutches of the gangsters (with varying degrees of success), the pace remains brisk, the dialogue deliciously fruity. At one point, Mills leans over to his wife and issues her with a rapid and incredibly lengthy set of instructions, which goes something like, “Go to the back of that shop. Turn left, then go straight. Then go right. You’ll see a red corridor. Go down the corridor, and turn right. There’s a set of steps...”

Somewhere in the second half, director Olivier Megaton (Transporter 3, Colombiana) gradually allows the tension to dissipate, like air escaping from a punctured tyre. The initially engaging action, which includes a chase that looks like the classic videogame Crazy Taxi, and a hilarious deployment of hand grenades, gradually gives way to grinding repetition.

Various neck-snapping sound effects appear to have been removed in the quest for a lower certification (something its 12A rating bears out), blunting the close-quarters action, and leaving some sequences looking as though Neeson’s simply hugging his victims to death (a power Neeson may actually possess).

The major problem lies in Karmen and Besson’s story. Its refusal to invest the bad guys with even a shred of character is a mistake, since we’ve no particular reason to fear them; they’re an identikit band of bestubbled men in dishevelled clothing, and look so similar to one another that they might even be played by the same two stunt men in every scene. 

Worse still, they die too easily. The first film established Mills as a kind of middle-aged Übermensch, and he continues to tower physically and psychologically over everyone here. Rather than scale up the sense of threat, as you’d expect from a sequel, Taken 2 simply ships in another group of rather dim cannon fodder – moving targets who are often killed while watching television.

Taken was livened up considerably by Neeson’s charismatic performance, and he’s similarly effective in the sequel. It’s a relief, too, to see Maggie Grace given a bit more to do this time around, even if she is a bit too old to be playing a teenager. Famke Janssen, on the other hand, is sorely underused, and spends much of the film fading in and out of consciousness as the narrative requires.

Lacking in surprises or suspense, Taken 2 merely rehashes sequences from the first film to diminished effect. The decision to relocate the action from Paris to Istanbul reads more like an attempt to hide how similar the two films are than introduce an unusual cultural backdrop, and if anything, the rather unpleasant streak of xenophobia present in Taken is even more pronounced in the sequel.

“I’m sick of all this”, Mills sighs in one late scene, as though even he’s feeling the effects of the second half’s lethargy. Sadly, it’s difficult not to agree with him.

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Liam Nesson is coming for you Ryan. You're going to be-----TAKEN!

"
if anything, the rather unpleasant streak of xenophobia present in Taken is even more pronounced in the sequel. "

Well, Luc Besson is involved...

Whilst I enjoyed the first Taken, it did seem to be competing with '24' in an attempt to convince us that torture is awesome (and works). You could argue it's the action version of Hostel, for the way in which it was suggesting that Americans should stay out of Europe...

Hopefully we'll get an adult edit with the DVD/Blu-ray release instead of his 12A edit

Take a chill pill, Stuart, or stop reading The Guardian, both '24' and 'Taken' are (follow me here) NOT REAL, and any ill-conceived attempt to try and bolt some socio-political relevance to either is an exercise in futility, they're entertainment, nothing more and nothing less... that being said, I hope we're discussing the imminent release of the '24' movie this time next year!

Haha, I've never read the Guardian (or any English papers). Films don't exist in a vacuum, even purely escapist ones, and 24 was very clearly a post 9/11 TV show. That being said, I enjoyed both 24 and Taken. Just 'cause I have a nuanced view doesn't mean I can't sit back and enjoy the ride :-)

I get where you're coming from, Stuart dude, but '24' was conceived and began production before 9/11 happened, although the public zeitgeist following that terrible morning certainly propelled '24' from being a potentially very successful series to an outright cultural phenomenon with only-too-real and very relevant socio-political themes (although the show's producers have always vociferously denied being political), so in that respect, you're absolutely correct...

That begs the question, mind; if '24' defined the so-called '9/11 Decade' (which it most certainly did), is it still relevant as a viable continuing franchise (albeit on the big rather than small screen) in a post-post-9/11 era? It would appear that FOX were also questioning this as they were only going to give the movie a mere $30m budget this year - as opposed to the $45m that Kiefer Sutherland and producers wanted - allegedly being somewhat cautious about whether too much time had elapsed between the series' end and the movie's eventual release, and that it would be seen as 'so-last-decade' as the second 'X-Files' film was upon release in 2008, and which was met with general apathy.

I personally think if the eventual '24' movie is a great action film, it'll do well upon release, but they need to get it out by late 2013 or early 2014 at the absolute latest, or else it runs the risk of being seen as a relic of the (albeit recent) past, and audiences will have moved on from then, meaning it will likely underperform at the box-office, and that'll be all she wrote for Jack Bauer's big-screen escapades... I live in hope that'll not happen, and it'll do gangbusters business upon release, but they need to get going very soon on it!

MIght wait for the DVD release myself...

Isn't it a bit unfair to judge a film when you've seen an edited version that the rest of the world won't be seeing? How do you know that the proper version won't be more thrilling, more violent, perhaps has a different feeling? Sure, it's only three scenes but who knows what was cut...

We've reviewed the version that will be released in UK cinemas - not sure what's unfair about that? We are a UK-based site :-)

It is unfair to the film to review it and not have seen the proper version. While you are a UK-based site the Internet isn't region based. I'm not from the UK and I'm sure your site is filled with people from around the world just as much as people from the UK. These non-UK readers are going to see a different film to you and therefore your review is almost irrelevant to them since it's not the proper version of the film. It's understandable that you have no way of seeing the proper version (which must be so annoying!) but perhaps you could make reference to it somewhere in the article for the sake of fairness to the film and their makers having their original product butchered by your rating council

I hate Olivier Megaton. He ruined any potential Colombiana had. and now he's doing the same with our Taken. How can a director get a film so wrong? He obviously doesn't appreciate character investment. I hope he never makes a film again.

And that explains why the vast majority of english-speaking movie review websites are based in the USA, and most only review them from that territory. And they do not make reference to any different cuts say in the UK or Germany.

I'd let Liam Nesson hug me ..................... I may have said that out loud whilst typing it in the office. Rather awkward.

And how, exactly, do you expect a reviewer living in the UK to be able to watch different versions from around the world? Ryan will have only been able to attend a press screening of the UK version.

If you want a review of the US version, there are plenty more websites you can read - if you don't like the UK bias of a UK hosted site with UK writing staff... Tough.

Perhaps you ought to complain to Empire and Total Film's websites for their UK film reviews.

And you are wrong - it's not the ratings council who do the butchering - they are only there to inform the studio and provide a certificate. They will have told the film company something along the lines of "If you keep this scene it will be an 18, if you cut just that it will be a 15 and if you cut these it will be a 12." It is then up to the studio to choose which they want to release. It is very rare for the BBFC to actually demand changes.

The most famous misquoted example is A Clockwork Orange - banned in the UK for 30 years, but not by the censors - they were happy to let it pass - it was banned by Kubrick himself who felt it was not right for the UK audience at the time.

Yeah, there is a possibility that it's too late... 24 stood out because, AFAIK, there were no big budget action/thriller shows to compete with it on TV (it really did seem to have a tonne of money thrown at it). On the big screen is another story altogether. That the last Bourne film didn't set the world on fire would surely have added to Fox's concerns about the viability of a 24 movie.

I'm sorry, this was a bad idea from the start...

Too bad, I was rooting for this sequel.

If we try and second guess the cuts of films that appear all around the globe, though, for every review that we write, we'd stand no chance.

In the case of Taken 2, we think we're fairly open that we're a UK site. We love that we get readers from all around the world, but all we can realistically review is the version that will appear on the cinema screens here. We've reported heavily elsewhere on the site that the UK version has had three scenes trimmed, but Taken 2 clearly has much deeper problems than that.

Our approach has to be, and I think it's the only realistic one, is that we review what we actually see on the screen, not our guessing of how it will turn out in versions we have no realistic way of watching.

One further point: if I remember correctly, Taken was cut in the US to get a PG-13 rating. Taken 2 has also been classified as PG-13 in America, although I can't find out what cuts, if any, were needed to get that rating.

And don't forget the death threats Kubricks family received which caused him to take that action.

24 may have been shown after 9/11, but it was recorded and in the bag before 9/11.

Not all eight seasons though. I meant the show as a whole...

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