“No, I think we’re finished. That’s it.”
Liam Neeson told us in a roundtable interview for Taken 2 only last month, before appending those words with, “Mind you, I thought we were finished after the first one.”
Yesterday, it was reported that thanks to the surprising amount of money Taken 2 made at the box office (over $100 million), plans are already underway for a third film in the series. Now, we’ll make no secret of our disappointment in Taken 2, both in terms of its threadbare plot and its indifferent action – 12A certificate or otherwise.
Liam Neeson, however, was typically, reliably good as ex-CIA super father Bryan Mills, and he retained a commendably straight face even as he was fishing a miniscule telephone from his shoe while tied up in a Turkish basement, giving his wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) incomprehensibly complicated directions through a network of Istanbul alleyways, or telling his daughter to gather up a fistful of hand grenades and use them as an incendiary location device.
So while Taken 2 wasn’t the lean, aggressive and simple sequel we were expecting, its success might – just might – lead to a sequel that’s as direct and guiltily enjoyable as the first. Here, then, are a few of the things we’d like to happen in Taken 3.
A more credible threat
If it’s to make anything like the same money as Taken 2, the second sequel needs to deliver on what this year’s film promised but didn’t provide: it needs to be bigger, bolder, with new challenges for its hero to face. Taken 2 provided none of this, offering little more than a new army of goons for Neeson to kill, almost all of them more witless and bad at defending themselves than those in Taken.
Rade Serbedzija was perfectly well cast as evil gangster Murad, but his character was barely sketched in. His various minions looked identical, and seemed more interested in watching television than actually killing Bryan Mills or his family. The film would have been better served had it opted for a kind of Raiders Of The Lost Ark approach, which established all kinds of villainy for its hero to overcome: intellectual and physical, cunning and just plain sadistic.
Another colourful location
It appears to be the locations that have long attracted Liam Neeson to the franchise’s scripts. He’s already admitted that he was attracted to Taken because he liked the idea of staying in Paris for a few weeks. So maybe if Taken 3’s location is enticing enough, he’ll sign up to play Bryan Mills again. But where could it be set? Maybe somewhere genteel, like the Cotswolds, with Mills’ family kidnapped from a tearoom. Or perhaps the Seychelles, where Kim’s kidnapped by a scuba diver…
A fresh take on the story
Kidnap and rescue were the staples of the first two films, and it’s likely that Besson and writing partner Robert Mark Kamen will bring this back for the third. This has led to various online comments about the identity of who or what might be taken next – Mills is rapidly running out of family members to have kidnapped, so what’s left? Family pets? The Toyota he obsessively polishes in Taken 2? His cherished Thundercats bubble bath?
In the surprising event that they take a minor creative risk, perhaps the focus could change a bit – maybe it could be Neeson who does the taking this time, possibly kidnapping someone who can prove his innocence, or a vital witness, or something like that.
Or, instead of rescue, maybe Mills could embark on a revenge mission – for the death of a family member, a pet, or possibly one of his friends he’s always cooking for at his weekend men-only barbecues. ‘Taken’ doesn’t necessarily have to mean kidnapped, after all.
Give Famke Janssen more to do
When we saw that Jannsen had a more prominent role in Taken 2‘s trailers, we wrongly assumed she’d have more to do in the finished movie. This did not prove to be the case. For the most part, she was required to look adoringly at Bryan, stare in terror at gangsters, and fade in and out of consciousness now and again. This was a terrible waste, particularly considering just how fearsome Jannsen was in some of her earlier films – this was the actress who brought us Xenia Onatopp and Jean Grey after all.
How much better would it have been if, when she was inevitably kidnapped by Murad’s gangsters, she’d suddenly displayed some extraordinary combat abilities herself, and maybe punched a villain’s jaw clean off? It’s something Jannsen could have convincingly pulled off, and would have enlivened the by-the-numbers action considerably.
Olivier Megaton’s direction could be politely described as workmanlike rather than effective, with Taken 2 disappointingly lacking in thriller tension, or even the savagely direct and concise violence of the original Taken. Bringing back Pierre Morel might be a good idea, or maybe Luc Besson himself could step into the director’s chair for his first action thriller in several years.
This leads us to a major point, and possibly the one we’re least likely to see. Taken was a violent movie, and it was disappointing to see this softened for Taken 2. Unfortunately, although a 15- or 18-certificate Taken 3 is something we’d prefer, it isn’t what we’re likely to get; with the 12A Taken 2 already soaring past the $100 million mark, its producers are probably already congratulating themselves on releasing the movie with a softer rating.
Stop pretending that Maggie Grace is a teenager
At the time of writing, actress Maggie Grace is 29 years old. She looked a little too mature to play virginal teenager Kim in the 2008 original, and the sight of her learning to drive and pretending to be just another pampered wealthy 17-year-old in the sequel was quite ridiculous.
Taken 2’s writers obviously wanted to hold onto the awkward, over-protective dad plot point like the first film (in a kind of action movie Father Of The Bride), but it’s not something we’d seen raked over in a second sequel.
Or maybe Bryan’s refusal to acknowledge his daughter’s age could be part of Taken 3’s plot – in an effort to keep her in a state of permanent naïve youth, he’s been quietly manipulating her public records and identification, and using advanced hypnosis techniques to make her think she’s a teenager.
It’s only when Kim celebrates her 17thbirthday for the 25th time that she realises she’s in fact in her mid-40s, and that Bryan’s a complete maniac, who hires criminals to kidnap her once per year in order to give him something to do. It might be far-fetched, but it would certainly liven the franchise up a bit…
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