If Taken taught us one thing, it’s this: Bryan Mills has skills. A very particular set of skills. These included bell ringing, origami, efficiently killing bad guys, and improvised thigh torture.
Taken also established Liam Neeson as a proper, leather jacket-wearing action hero, all growled threats and bruised knuckles. If Neeson released his own brand of aftershave, it’d smell of gun oil and cordite.
Written by action thriller specialists Luc Besson and Robert Mark Karmen, Taken sees Mills, a retired CIA veteran, attempt to rebuild his relationship with his estranged daughter, Kimmy (Maggie Grace). Unfortunately, Kimmy heads off on an ill-advised holiday to Paris, which turns out to be the most unexpectedly dangerous city in the world.
In what is surely the ultimate ticking clock narrative, Kimmy is abducted (or Taken) by the Albanian Mafia, and it’s up to Mills to rescue her before she’s auctioned off to some seedy billionaire as a virginal sex slave. In the quest to save his daughter’s chastity, Mills righteously delivers throat chops and pistol whips to every man he encounters, and within 93 minutes, the morgues of Paris are filled up with 35 mangled dead bodies.
So that was 2008’s Taken: short, terse and violent. But what of Taken 2, a film which, as a sequel, is duty bound to be bigger, louder and more filled with crushed windpipes than ever?
Having broken the film’s first trailer down and viewed it frame by frame using techniques taught to us by the CIA, here’s what we’ve learned about Taken 2…
This time, it’s personal
Mills’ wholesale slaughter of Albanian Mafia members hasn’t gone unnoticed in the gang’s homeland. As the trailer establishes in a lean 30 seconds, the families of the deceased are mourning their loss on a quiet hillside, and contemplating their retribution over a row of open graves.
“He slaughtered our men,” says Murad (Serbian actor Rade Serbedzija), the father of one of Mills’ karate chop victims. “Our brothers… our sons…”
We could pick fault here and mention that there aren’t actually enough graves in this establishing scene; the mourners are standing over seven holes in the ground, when really there should be 35. Maybe the bodies are stacked up on top of each other to save space, or something. At any rate, the key point here is Murad’s “We will have our revenge,” which tells you all you need to know about the plot.
Unfortunately, Murad and his gang of avengers have no clue just how tough Bryan Mills is. If they knew what they were letting themselves in for, I suspect they’d probably just throw themselves in the open graves to save time, energy and plane tickets.
Throw yourselves into the graves, darlings. You haven’t got a chance.
Where Taken used the seedy underbelly of the city of romance as its backdrop, Taken 2’s battleground will be Istanbul, Turkey’s cultural heartland. Stationed there for unspecified CIA business (we think), Mills is paid a surprise visit by his daughter Kimmy and wife Lenore (Famke Janssen).
This being a Taken movie, you know what’s going to happen next.
Yes, a sequel needs to double the danger, so Taken 2 gives Mills two beautiful women to rescue. And after a couple of flashy helicopter shots and assorted dialogue snippets (“Dad’s the best, isn’t he?” “Yes, he is”), Murad and his entourage of dishevelled villains strike.
It’s worth noting that, in the shot above, Mills already appears to have killed one of the goons, and they’ve barely even started their mission of vengeance. This is the last point where they could fly home and pretend the whole thing never happened.
Mills’ “I’ve got a very particular set of skills” phone conversation was one of the most memorable moments in Taken, and introduced the character’s defining quirk: telling people what’s going to happen before the event takes place. Mills told his daughter’s kidnapper, “I will look for you, I will find you and I will kill you”, and sure enough, he did.
Our hero gets to do the same thing in Taken 2. “Listen to me carefully, Kim”, Mills tells his weeping daughter, as a bag’s unceremoniously shoved over Famke Janssen’s head. “Your mother is going to be taken. And people are going to come for you, too.”
In a later phone conversation, Mills tells his new enemy Murad, “I’m will finish this thing. You’re just going to have to die.”
I can imagine what it must be like in the Mills household on Christmas Eve. “Listen to me very carefully, Kim. Tomorrow, you’re going to open some presents. Then at lunchtime, we’ll have a large roast dinner, followed by a brief sleep in front of the TV. Now hang up the goddamn phone, All Dogs Go To Heaven’s just come on.”
The princess is in the other castle
In Taken, Kimmy had little more to do than weep and look a bit helpless, with her virginity providing the slightly unsavoury MacGuffin. In Taken 2, it looks as though she’ll get to run about a bit and maybe have a few action scenes of her own. She certainly won’t be the crying, helpless thing we saw in the first film, it seems.
Brace yourself, gentle reader, for the next section, which is:
A foregone conclusion?
A foregone conclusion?
Taken 2’s trailer has prepared us to expect lots more of the same stuff we saw in the first film. Two hysterical women in peril for the price of one. Buy one, get one free on Albanian bad guys. Liam Neeson all-you-can-eat neck snapping buffet.
Many goons will die. There will be blood.
But wait! Is it all really as cut and dried as the trailer makes out? Lest we forget, Famke Janssen plays Lenore; could it be that, in a final act twist wisely kept hidden so far, this almost-six-foot-tall woman in peril is, in fact, an arse-kicking angel of death? This is the actress who played Xenia Onatopp in GoldenEye and Phoenix in X-Men – surely she has a very particular set of skills of her own? Death straddle? Disintegration techniques?
Will Lenore suddenly turn round and rip Murad’s jaw off in the inevitable final fight scene, leaving Bryan Mills speechless and crestfallen? We hope so, but probably not. This is Neeson’s show, after all.
Whether Taken 2 delivers any true surprises or not, we know one thing for sure: there’ll be a lot more graves to dig on that Albanian hillside by the time the credits roll.
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