Review: Taken 2

daniel cohen is about to get taken…again…

Plot: After rescuing his daughter (Maggie Grace) from a gang of criminals, the father (Rade Serbedzija) of one of the victims vows revenge on Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), planning revenge on him and his entire family.

There’s nothing more clichéd then the revenge story, and that’s pretty much what this is. But that’s not what bothered me about Taken 2. Now don’t get me wrong: I enjoyed this movie more than I didn’t, but what made the original Taken so bad ass is that it was just Liam Neeson basically ripping through bad guys the way Ninja Turtles rip through members of the foot clan. And while there’s a good amount of that here, it seemed subdued this time around as we get more ‘feel good’ family moments…booooooooooring. What this film does do right though is that it finds other ways for Mills to be a bad ass other than just kicking the shit out of nameless thugs.

The best scenes of tension come from Mills trying to figure out where he’s going, or when he’s trying to get another character to a certain place. For example, Mills is blindfolded and thrown in a trunk at one point, and the way he deduces where he’s headed is awesome, albeit pretty far-fetched. There’s also another scene where he involves his daughter Kim, as he has to lead her to a specific location. I loved this scene for a couple reasons. First of all, it created great pressure for Kim, and finally got Maggie Grace to act well. And secondly, it creates a great character moment for both Mills and Kim. Both are on the phone, and Mills basically wants Kim to stay safe and hide, but Kim insists on helping her dad. The acting by Neeson is great here, as we see him give this look of ‘if she does this, there’s no turning back. She’ll be a part of this lifestyle forever.’ It just goes to show that this film simply wouldn’t work without Neeson.

What is there to say about Liam Neeson? He completely carries this movie as he does the first one. Without Neeson, the film would be a boring predictable mess, but Neeson has such a presence with this character, that he can sell the most inane run of the mill dialogue there is. Unfortunately the villain, Murad, is pretty putrid and uninteresting. He has an evil looking beard, and that’s pretty much it…yay. To be fair though, the other Taken had a sub standard bad guy as well. The other two main actresses do a good job though. Maggie Grace is rough at times, but in the critical scenes with Neeson, she’s actually pretty solid. also enjoyed Famke Janssen as Mills’ ex-wife, an actress I’ve always felt was underrated. But even though I enjoyed the performances, there’s too much time spent with them.

The first act especially is a little slow. It’s a lot of comedic family moments like Mills tracking down Kim’s new boyfriend, or Kim trying to play match maker with her mom and dad. Now to be fair, the first Taken started off a little slow too, but this takes a lot longer to get going. It’s not that these scenes are bad, it’s just that this isn’t why I’m here. The film does a good job of making you care about the family relationships, but it could have been sped up. I do enjoy the camaraderie between Mills and his CIA buddies though, especially with Sam (Leland Orser), and wouldn’t mind seeing a Taken 3 with both of them kicking ass.

Speaking of ass kicking, as great as it was to see Liam Neeson back in this role, a lot of the fight sequences are ruined by my dreaded film nemesis…the shaky cam. Why!? Why does this happen!? It’s disorientating. You can’t tell what’s going on. It’s infuriating. And obviously there are some people who like it, because a lot of action movies continue to use it. The director for this film is Olivier Megaton. Maybe because his last name is almost spelled Megatron, and the Transformers movies continuously showcased impossible to follow action, he felt compelled to do the same. I don’t know, but maybe things would have been different if the original director Pierre Morel came back. Regardless, I’m just disgusted that perfectly good fight scenes were ruined by this insufferable filming technique.

If you like the first Taken, you’ll enjoy this too, even if it is a JV watered down version of the original. The story is whatever, but there’s plenty of tension filled sequences, especially the final standoff between Mills and Murad that left me pretty satisfied. The ending of the movie though wraps up in to nice of a package, but I can’t say anything more without spoiling it. One bone I have to pick with Taken 2 though is that it rips off the score to last year’s great film, Drive! And I’m not just talking about the two sounding alike, as there’s literally a scene in here that uses the exact music from one of the sequences in Drive! And they also incorporate the most famous song from Drive, ‘A Real Hero’ into the film as well. Hey movie, don’t mess Drive! That’s their music!

Rating: 6.5 out of 10 (Slightly better than ‘meh’)

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.

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