Directed by: Olivier Megaton
Premise: A sequel to the 2009 film. A retired CIA agent (Liam Neeson) and his family are targeted by an organized crime syndicate.
What Works: The ending of the original Taken did not lead in any obvious narrative directions and it is to the credit of co-writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen that this sequel has a premise that is not too contrived. Where the original Taken was about Neeson’s character operating on his own, the filmmakers of Taken 2 manage to incorporate the family, especially the daughter played by Maggie Grace, into the action in ways that are appealing.
What Doesn’t: Whatever successes Taken 2 has in its premise are overshadowed by a litany of problems. Taken 2 often seems like a cheap knockoff made by people who did not understand what made the first picture work. The original Taken was a not a brilliant film but it was smart and extremely entertaining; the picture had a grittiness to its look and a relentlessness in its execution that made it an irresistible action film. The sequel has none of that. Even though there is a more direct presence of underworld figures in Taken 2, the film has been cleansed of the seedier qualities that gave the original Taken an edge. The action scenes of Taken 2 are not exciting and often inferior to those of the original. The editing of these scenes is especially awful. The action is impossible to follow and many fights and chases don’t make any sense. The original Taken had a fragile kind of logic; there were occasional gaps in the storytelling and other creative licenses were taken in regard to credibility but the film moved so fast and was so involving that the viewer could ignore them. Because Taken 2 lacks anything that is similarly involving and is so sloppily made the movie’s incredulous or downright stupid storytelling decisions are much more apparent and they snap the viewer out of the picture. A deeper problem of Taken 2 is the lack of motivation for Liam Neeson’s character. The original film took its time in the opening and smartly established Neeson as a marginalized figure in his daughter’s life, thereby undermining his manhood. A key part of Taken’s appeal was that it required Neeson’s character to prove himself as a father by rescuing his daughter. That subtext was the driving force behind the story. Taken 2 does not possess an equivalent motivation on the part of Neeson’s character and as a result the story has no momentum. The rest of the cast suffers from equivalent underwriting. The daughter, played by Maggie Grace, went through hell in the first film and viewers would expect that she would be at least a little more cautious about her safety or have some trepidation about traveling abroad but she does not seem at all affected by her experiences in the first film. The mother (Famke Janssen) has a similar problem; in the first film she was established as a very different kind of person than she is presented here and she has changed for no apparent reason. Because the characters have no motivation except to run away, Taken 2 has a serious problem that it has to overcome. For a while it seems as though it might do that as the film reverses the engine of the original, with the daughter saving her parents. That would have potentially made for a much more interesting movie but the filmmakers don’t follow through and instead retread scenes of Liam Neeson shooting and punching anonymous European thugs.
Bottom Line: Taken 2 is a lazily made film. The picture has a slapdash quality that makes it seem like a cynical attempt to turn a one –shot film into a franchise.
Episode: #410 (October 21, 2012)