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Taken 2

October 10, 2012
Taken 2

When Taken came out in 2008 it was a run-of-the-mill Eurospy action thriller featuring Liam Neeson with little to distinguish it from other movies fitting that description. Since then it has developed a bit of a cult following on the Internet, mostly on the strength of Neeson’s iconic monologue to the human traffickers in the process of kidnapping his daughter. Now Taken 2 comes along, seemingly trying to cash in on this meme, but mostly showing that a running gag on the internet is never in and of itself sufficient reason to make a movie.

The evidence that writer and producer Luc Besson is phoning it in starts with the title; a simple “2” without even a subtitle is about the laziest possible option for a sequel, and just as a sequence of words “Taken Two” lacks even a hint of grace. It’s not even hard to beat: “Taken Again” and “Retaken”, off the top of my head, would be superior. “Taken Aback” shows promise, but might describe the audience’s reaction better.

The story doesn’t improve much on that start. Bryan Mills (Neeson) is in Istanbul finishing up a gig providing private security, where he is joined by his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen), and his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), who is still recovering from her ordeal in the previous movie when it’s convenient for some drama. Also in Istanbul is Murad Krasniqi (Rade Serbedzija), the father of the lead kidnapper from last time, bent on revenge for his son and all the other sons of his Albanian village Mills chewed through like so much scenery. That’s about as complicated as it gets.

There’s certainly no sense of nuance or insight, and this is particularly glaring in the movie’s abysmal treatment of ethnicity. It sets up the obvious symmetry between Mills’ desire to rescue and avenge his daughter with Krasniqi’s desire to avenge his son, but then intentionally breaks it. On the one side is the white man defending civilization and rescuing an innocent. On the other side the swarthy man seeks merely a tribalistic honor-feud, recognizing and consciously dismissing the evil his son committed. The white man has the capacity for restraint, mercy, and reason; the other has only bloodlust and savagery.

But this is an action movie, not literature. And here, too, Taken 2 disappoints. Director Olivier Megaton did a passable job with the action in Colombiana — from a much better script by Besson and Robert Mark Kamen — but this is a giant mess. Whether Mills is fencing with rebar in a shadowy alley, discharging a bottomless ammo clip while running across the rooftops, or playing bumper-cars through the streets of Istanbul, the editing is choppy and nauseatingly chaotic, with no coherent sense of space.

And with so little in the way of plot to bind these lackluster action scenes together, the movie falls apart. We’re left with a scattered mess of atrociously corny dialogue, boring, nonsensical chases, and establishing shots of the Hagia Sophia. Pretty much everyone involved is capable of better than this.

Worth It: no.
Bechdel Test: fail.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Hunt permalink
    October 12, 2012 00:39

    “Taken Aback” would be the Mel Brooks spoof on it. I can’t really think of a title would a) not be ridiculous and b) leverage the success of its predecessor. I think the best that could be done would be to resort to synonyms, like “Seized” or…”Gotten,” no, that last one is also a Mel Brooks adaptation. Come to think of it, “Taken 2” was probably the optimal title.
    I’m not exactly sure why “Taken” was such a good movie, but I definitely thought it stood out from the crowd. It may have just been very good fight choreography, or the fact that Neeson is particularly adept at it, but watching it, I felt every kick and punch, and there was also the rather visceral indulgence of “following the person who is righteous and very good at something whom you will identify with for the duration of the movie.” That is basically the same formula for success that the Bond franchise has banked on for a couple generation of men.

  2. Hunt permalink
    January 22, 2013 07:46

    Finally saw this on DVD. Yes, it’s pretty much a mess, reinforcing stereotypes and playing off American jingoism revived by 9/11. The frustrating part is that with a little creativity, they could have cashed in on the notoriety of the first movie and made something sort of creative. Like, for instance, explore what might happen if Kim translates her trauma into a career in the FBI that gets misdirected and requires some kind of correction by Neeson’s character. That would have been interesting, while preserving the “paternal protection” theme. Just one idea among many that could have happened.

    “Taken, not stirred.” Bing, bing, bing, we have a winner.

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