Taken 2 Review: Liam Neeson's Back For More in Bloodless Rehash

rating: 2

In 2010 Liam Neeson suddenly found himself in the upper reaches of the action hero map as Taken, the streamlined, laser-focussed, one man assault on the modern day slave trade, reaped a not insubstantial $145 million at the US box office, and some $226 million worldwide. Luc Besson's mile-a-minute, euro-pudding, action fiestas (see The Transporter series) had finally hit paydirt. With Neeson's growled delivery of 'I will find you, and I will kill you' entering the pop-culture lexicon it was inevitable that this guilty pleasure would be given the sequel green light. Unfortunately the result, Taken 2, is a cynical cash-cow; a lazy, bloodless rehash with levels of ridiculousness that storytelling fleet-footedness and hyper-active camera-work just can't hide. Although in this case laying the paucity of thrill or sense at the audience's feet doesn't seem to have raised many concerns with the film-makers as its shortcomings must have been self-evident after one script read through. Taken 2 The story, by Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, actually has a fairly good premise - in a serious nod to Austin Powers' 'no-one ever thinks about the family of a henchman', the extended Albanian families of of the original film's slaughtered hoods decide to get revenge on Neeson's security expert, Bryan Mills. And what better way to make him suffer than eliminate his daughter, and his ex-wife, before putting Mills himself in the ground. It just goes to show that there's an artistic chasm between a good pitch and a polished screenplay. Starting things off with a panoply of obsessive Dad situational comedy and some forced BBQ jollity the action switches to the grand landscape of Istanbul where Mills is working on a security contract. The required sub-plot of emotional entanglement with his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) sets up a 'surprise' visit from both her, and his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), now recovered from her Parisian kidnap ordeal, and before you can say 'suspicious character in hotel lobby' the game is on. Only this time around the requisite phone call to Kim is to tell her that it's her parents that are about to be taken. Taken 2 Of course she's also targeted to be a close runner-up, and after some vertiginous hotel hide and seek and Neeson uttering the immortal line, 'can you get out of the closet safely?', what follows is an oddly circuitous chase, escape and chase with all three of the heroic Mills clan. Including one highlight of Neeson tracking his route from the boot of a car, a la Rock Hudson in 1965's Blindfold, via counting seconds and listening to passing sounds. The fact that one of the sounds he utilises later in the film belongs to the world's most consistent musician is neither here nor there. That sequence of cartoonish cunning pales into insignificance as Neeson/Mills attempts to direct Kim over Istanbul's roof-tops towards his basement prison. It's probably the first and last time we've seen geo-location by hand grenade. None of this ham-fisted tale-telling is helped by the ADD directorial style of Olivier Megaton who, burdened with producing a teen friendly action pic, and without the visceral shock of blood, broken bones, and home-made electric chairs, attempts to compensate by throwing his camera around with such abandon that it leaves the audience wondering who's punching who. The one moment where he gives Neeson and the chief thug room to move and swing with some thunderous close-quarter fighting proves, to us at least, that less is more. Ultimately the real villain of the piece is Besson himself, and the production entities behind this disappointing drivel, driven to cash in on a surprise hit without paying any attention to what created the phenomenon in the first place. The one bright spot is Neeson. Poor judgment notwithstanding, even amongst Taken 2's derivative hysteria, and like his character Bryan Mills, he manages to keeps his cool. Taken 2 Taken 2 is in UK cinemas from today.
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Film writer, drinker of Guinness. Part-time astronaut. Man who thinks there are only two real Indiana Jones movies, writing loglines should be an Olympic event, and that science fiction, comic book movies, 007, and Hal Hartley's Simple Men are the cures for most evils. Currently scripting.