Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
Directed by: Oliver Megaton
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen
“Isn’t it beautiful” exclaims Bryan Mill’s daughter Kim as she takes in the view of Istanbul from her fathers hotel window. She’s not wrong; Istanbul is beautiful and the various sweeping shots of the city allow us to take in that splendor – something we were unable to do with Paris in the first film. Unfortunately, Istanbul’s beauty is the only thing of any merit in this plodding and unnecessary sequel.
An undisclosed amount of time has passed since Bryan had to travel to Paris to save his daughter from a group of stereotypically dirty Albanians. As before, Bryan is living for seeing his daughter. Only now his ex-wife Lenore is separated from her fancy man of the first film and is persistently crying. But an opportunity for Bryan to spend time with Lenore and Kim presents itself and soon enough the three are in Istanbul. However, equally as dirty parents and relatives of the stereotypically dirty Albanians of the first film are not happy with how Bryan murdered all their siblings and so decide to exact revenge by kidnapping Bryan and co in Istanbul and spilling their blood. Cue chases, growling and another display of Mr. Mill’s “particular set of skills”.
The first Taken is one of those Marmite films that you either love or hate and I must admit to being in the former group. Yes it has the stars and stripes bursting out of every available orifice, but it was also consistently exciting, ultra-violent (notably the uncut DVD edition) and boasted a great central performance from Liam Neeson. The sequel, in comparison, has none of these things.
For a start, the action is frustratingly tame. The original had the no-holes-barred approach that earned the film a 15 at the cinema and an 18 when released with the extra footage. Taken 2 has the ‘let’s go for the biggest audience demographic possible’ approach, meaning the amount they can show on the screen is greatly reduced. Baddies drop like flies without even the slightest drop of blood spilled and the hand-to-hand combat is certainly less exhilarating without the sound of bones crunching. Moreover, the action is edited at such a fast rate that you barely have time to focus before the shot changes, meaning you can never become emotionally interested in what’s happening on the screen.
The real problem with this sequel though, is Luc Besson’s poorly written and constructed screenplay. Taken only took around 20 minutes for the main action to begin, and even the scene setting had the sequence where Bryan had to protect Holly Valance’s singer to help build the tension. Here we get nearly half an hour of melodramatic twaddle with Bryan even being presented as an emotional pillar for Lenore’s relationship problems. The attempt to make Bryan a more emotionally driven character is nothing short of laughable; he’s a protector, not a shoulder to cry on!
There are other grievances too, that adds to the drawback of this pointless sequel. Even when the film moves out of first gear, there are too many languorous interludes that slow the film down to a snail pace. Neeson seems unable to handle the emotional material given to him and looks bored for the majority of the film. There’s also a baffling sequence early on, where the baddies attempt to extract information from Olivier Rabourdin’s Jean-Claude by apparently threatening to shoot his teddy bear.
“I’m tired,” says Bryan towards the end of the film… you and me both buddy, you and me both!