Friday, October 5, 2012

Taken 2 (2012)


Released in 2008, Taken came out of nowhere to earn $145 million at the box office on just a $25 million budget.  The movie-going public recognizes fresh material when they see it.  Taken was original, creative, driven, and hosted one of the most memorable protagonists in recent memory.  Of course they would have to make a sequel to wring some more money out of Taken's fans.

A review of a movie sequel which starts outs praising the first installment instead of the new story is most likely not going to be very kind to the unfortunate title which ends in the number 2.  Taken 2 keeps Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills, Famke Janssen as his ex-wife Lenore, and the always relentlessly annoying Maggie Grace as his daughter Kim.  Rule of thumb - if Maggie Grace is cast in your film, it will probably stink.  This is her second feature film in 2012, after Lockout, so she is 0-2 this year.  The bad guys are also mostly the same; they are the extended family of the first group of Albanians Bryan killed after they kidnapped his daughter and sold her into sex slavery.  Now they want revenge; they must honor their dead sons and brothers.  It doesn't matter that their sons and brothers were human traffickers, rapists, and murderers.  Family honor is family honor ya know?  

Bryan is growing close with his family again.  After a few days of work in Istanbul as a heavily armed bodyguard, Byran invites Lenore and Kim to Turkey to take in the sights and relax in a very posh hotel.  Fortunately for the Albanians, this is where they are going to kidnap Bryan, transport him back to Albania, and torture him to death.  The introduction of mom and daughter is a cherry on top for the head bad guy Murad (Rade Serbedzija).  He is older with grey hair; I mention this because all of the other couple dozen bad guys run together, he is the only one you will remember.  In Taken, Bryan had it comparatively easy.  He had one person to save and could methodically move through the ranks of thugs as he stabbed and shot his way to the top.  Now, not only does he have to watch his own back, he must save both mom and daughter, sometimes alternating which one he can help at any given moment.

The original Taken was so good because of Bryan's practical and purposeful methods of extracting information, Neeson's deadpan delivery, and the ins and out of seedy Paris locales.  Now take everything which made Taken a great movie and divide it by two.  You already know the story, you know Bryan will talk slowly and concisely about how he has certain skills, and this time you get to suffer a bit more because Maggie Grace gets more screen time.  The camera work also takes a nosedive during hand to hand combat.  The camera shakes, jumps up and down, does some jumping jacks, and the average edit is probably .002 seconds.  The audience has no hope of logically following who is punching whom or where a new bad guy springs up from.  Scenes where Bryan fights with a loaded pistol are much easier to watch.

It's not that I'm mad at writer Luc Besson or director Olivier Megaton; they probably were under a lot of pressure to re-create the Taken magic.  Unfortunately, they did not do a very good job.  The story is only a bit laundered from the first one and everything else is merely imitation.  Stay away from Taken 2, it will only remind you of its superior predecessor.

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