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Review: Taken 2
September 27, 2012
Sitting in the cinema watching Taken 2 you get a strange sense of Déjà vu. Swapping the romantic city of Paris for the more exotic location of Istanbul, Taken 2 sings from the same hymn sheet to that of its predecessor as someone is again ‘taken’ and it’s up to the limitlessly resourceful Bryan Mills to save the day once again. The problem is that Taken wasn’t a particularly good film, but the flaws were covered up partly by the novelty of seeing Liam Neeson taking on the mantel of action hero, good action and the breakneck speed of the film. Taken 2 has none of these qualities, Neeson’s starting to look like he belongs in The Expendables, the action’s mundane and the film swills around in a melodramatic mess for half an hour before really getting going.
The film revolves around a lazy plot involving some shady Algerians lead by Murad Hoxha (Rade Šerbedžija) bent on avenging the deaths of their lost relatives who died at the hands of Bryan Mills (Neeson) in the first film. After receiving a surprise visit from his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) and his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) in Istanbul, the shit soon hits the fan as Bryan and Lenore are ‘taken’, leaving Kim to run around Istanbul tossing grenades around in a ludicrous attempt to pin point Bryan’s location.
Once again Neeson is the highlight of the film, dispatching anyone and everyone who comes between himself and finding his family with disdainful ease. He even manages to growl his way through some of the film’s more ridiculous lines of dialogue ‘Can you get out of the cupboard safely?’ Sadly, however, the rest of the cast can’t quite keep up with him and at 29 years old, Maggie Grace is unconvincing as a nineteen year old who seems miraculously stable just one year after her terrible ordeal. Famke Janssen is particularly underused and her role in the movie is effectively to play the veritable human hourglass. Perhaps what’s more unforgivable is the treatment of the tattooed baddies whose only purpose seems to be to provide Mills with something new to punch whilst giving an illusion to any resemblance of a story.
And herein lies the greatest failure of the film. On a vastly increased budget, you’d expect the chases to be quicker, the fights more brutal and the set pieces more thrilling. But it’s hard to see where this extra money went. For a film which relies pretty much solely on the action, it’s disappointingly bland and lacking in ambition. The fight scenes are poorly choreographed and the numerous chases just don’t elicit the same thrills Pierre Morel managed in the original. Knives are brandished and bullets are fired but there is never any real sense of danger to Mills as he dispatches goons without getting a scratch. It’s hard to feel any sense of anxiousness or nerves, as it’s just inconceivable to imagine him losing.
What is perhaps the film’s saving grave is the sense of unpretentiousness you get. It isn’t trying to be Citizen Kane, it knows exactly what it is, a silly, mindless romp, which makes it a lot easier to gloss over the film’s numerous pitfalls and just have a bit of stupid fun.
Taken 2 is released in cinemas this Thursday 4th October in the UK.