It will be of little surprise to most that the law of diminishing returns is in full effect for Taken 2, the unlikely, unnecessary sequel to Piere Morel’s surprisingly entertaining actioner, which helped reinvent star Liam Neeson as an old-timer action hero for the ages. Director Olivier Megaton (Transporter 3, Colombiana) demonstrates a less-measured approach in essentially recycling what worked the first time around, and padding the rest out with sub-par familial drama that amounts to little more than warmed-up leftovers.
Things kick off roughly a year after the events of the first film, with Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) on a trip to Istanbul, when his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) and ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) swing by to surprise him. However, things take a turn for the worse once the vicious Murad (Rade Šerbedžija), looking to avenge the deaths of friends and loved ones at Mills’ hands in the previous outing, kidnaps Bryan and Lenore, leaving it up to Kim to try and save the day.
It’s an absolutely ludicrous premise, and for its opening ten minutes, Taken 2 actually seems in on the joke, self-mocking as it notes Bryan’s overly protective attitude towards his daughter. The problem, however, is that this soon enough gives way to dreary family drama, as Bryan picks Kim up from her boyfriend’s place, takes her on a driving lesson, gasses with his ex-wife, meets them by surprise at Istanbul, and after all this, the titular taking finally takes place. Still, the film is a third done by this point, a fatal mistake given the audience’s familiarity with the premise; above all else, this unbearably lazy sequel might have done well to flout the overly-coveted three-act structure and just get down to business.
By the time Bryan realises he’s been stashed in a grubby hideaway with his missus and Kim decides to help them out, things are practically half-way to home, and yet director Megaton – whose action sequences in Transporter 3 at least demonstrated some frenetic promise – fails to ramp up the thrills, instead insisting on inane, unintentionally funny dialogues and slow-moving chases. Admittedly, one scene in which Bryan helps Kim to deduce his rough location by having her draw a Venn diagram with a pen and a shoelace before lobbing a few grenades about does raise a cheeky titter, but one hardly gets the impression we’re laughing with the filmmakers.
Even in those brief moments that Bryan gets to kick some ass – and believe us, he spends far too long sequestered – Megaton’s poor direction and the film’s scarcely coherent editing makes discerning spatial sense of the scenes close to impossible. One might be tempted to believe that this is to disguise Neeson’s age when raising fisticuffs with men half his age, but Piere Morel didn’t need to rely on these lame tricks, and Neeson came off as much more badass regardless. Compounding this is some questionable editing to secure the film a 12A rating; several character deaths – and you’ll know which ones they are – are awkwardly free of violent force, and it’s all the more baffling given the original film being granted a 15 rating.
Neeson does his best as always to give the material credibility, but there’s only so much that can be done with shonky mulch like this; even his physicality is demeaned by Megaton’s shapeless, stifled direction, while the script is absolutely bottom-of-the-barrel, achingly desperate sequel fodder. Pretty much an abject failure as both a slick actioner and a familial drama, Taken 2 signs its series’ own death warrant, and will likely ensure a third film remains a remote possibility at best.
Taken 2 is in cinemas October 4th.
This article was first posted on September 19, 2012