Taken 2 Review

The Plot:

Retired CIA super-agent Bryan Mills finds himself, his ex-wife and daughter once again caught up in gun battles and mayhem, this time in Istanbul, as the families of the kidnappers he ruthless dispatched rescuing his daughter in the first film set out to take their revenge.

The Good:

The success of the first Taken film was almost exclusively due to Liam Neeson’s explosive performance. So effective was the towering middle aged Irishman in the role of a heroic unstoppable killing machine, it reinvented his career overnight, instantly transforming him into an unlikely new action superstar.

The second time around, Liam Neeson effortlessly replicates the blistering paced physical action of the original, as he efficiently works his way through annihilating a fresh batch of faceless Eurotrash bad guys. As soon as Neeson slips on a leather jacket and flips his switch to ‘badass’ mode, the film immediately becomes far vastly more watchable. It’s an immensely satisfying guilty pleaser to watch him pummel vile kidnappers to death with a flurry of massive fists or blowing them away with a very well placed bullet.

Director Olivier Megaton at least replicates the frantic visual flair of Luc Besson’s 2008 effort. The fight scenes are convincingly bruising and brutal. The dark streets of Istanbul also do a good job of replacing the Paris slums which defined the character of the first film.

Taken 2 has its flaws, but thankfully Liam Neeson’s constant and undeniable magnificence brings a credibility to the entire film that it may not always deserve. It’s rare for a central performance to be so commanding that it simply makes you forgive and forget any other failings.

The Bad:

You have to be pretty wary saying anything negative about Taken 2 because you really don’t want to get into an argument with Liam Neeson. You WILL lose.

Taken 2 closely follows the template of its successful predecessor, but only manages to capture some of the lighting that made the first film an unexpected box office smash, raking in over $225million worldwide.  Whilst vengeful bad guys might add a little superficial emotion to proceedings, it’s really all just an obvious excuse for more family members to be predictably Taken. Evidently they really didn’t pay attention to the moral of the first story, never ever take Liam Neeson’s stuff… he does Not like that one bit.

As a sequel Taken 2 is mostly a straightforward repetition of the first film. Unfortunately in an effort to distinguish itself, the film attempts to exploit easy laughs and tries to give expanded roles to our heroes ex-wife and daughter. The new comedic tone and shifting even the slightest bit of focus away from Liam Neeson’s character is clearly a mistake.

Maggie Grace who plays Neeson’s kidnap prone daughter Kim is easily the film’s weakest link. It’s not simply a lack of acting talent; her character is just intrinsically implausible and unavoidably irritating. Trying to suddenly introduce her as an ill-advised action sidekick pushes the film toward becoming an embarrassing cliché. While she was just about tolerable as hysterical kidnap victim, watching her casually lobbing grenades around Istanbul before stunt driving her way through the city, strains believability far too far.

Famke Janssen as Neeson’s estranged wife and love interest seems to spend most of her increased screen time unconscious, giving her little chance to display any hint of emotional range or contribute to the film beyond a necessary plot point.

The Ugly Truth:

Fans of the original Taken and Liam Neeson’s new action superhero persona will take great delight in finding another opportunity to hear him growl one liners and see him demolish roomfuls of evil doers.

Taken 2 really doesn’t take itself as seriously as the first film, deliberately and perhaps at times unintentionally, provoking big audience laughs. Those already enjoying the film as a guilty treat will welcome the self-referential comedic undertones; but some action fans may prefer the relentless brutality of the first film.

Taken 2 arrives in UK Cinemas on 4th October, if you don’t go see it Liam Neeson may just have to use his special set of skills to find you and ask why?  Taken 2 International Trailer below:

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