It’s telling that during his visit to “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” on Comedy Central, when asked by host Jon Stewart about the possibility of a Taken 3, actor Liam Neeson simply shook his head in the negative.
Good answer, Mr. Neeson. In fact, it probably should have been your answer when you were brought the script for Taken 2, which unlike its predecessor, 2008′s Taken, is unable to overcome its numerous cliches, leaps of logic, and inherent silliness. Click the “play” button below to listen to our on-air review from earlier today:
The setup for the film is promising enough. A year after he shot, electrocuted, and bludgeoned his way through a group of Albanian human traffickers in Paris to rescue his kidnapped daughter, retired CIA “preventer” Bryan Mills (Neeson) and his family have settled back into their lives in Los Angeles. Bryan has come out of retirement, sort of, taking on the occasional freelance security job while staying close to daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) and his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen). With her own second marriage on the skids, Lenore focuses on Kim and is warming up to Bryan again thanks to the fact that he kept his promise and stayed around. Kim just works on feeling normal again after her harrowing experience, doing things that normal 18 year olds do, like repeatedly flunking her driving test, spending time with a new boyfriend, and hiding the existence of that boyfriend from Dad.
Meanwhile, the family of the Albanians Bryan killed, led by vengeful patriarch Murad (Rade Serbedzija), plan their revenge. They get their chance when Bryan takes a security job in Istanbul and Lenore and Kim surprise him by joining him there. Soon, Bryan and Lenore are “taken”, and he’s forced to once again employ his “particular set of skills”, but this time to keep himself and Lenore alive while also helping Kim avoid capture and find wherever it is Murad’s men have taken them.
The thing about the first Taken was that despite the lack of anything truly original going on in the script by producer Luc Besson (The Professional) and Robert Mark Kamen, the pacing and structure of the film led to an undeniably taut, tense film. Neeson brought believable physicality and intensity to his portrayal of a desperate father racing the clock to track down his child in a city of millions before she was permanently untraceable. The scenario alone demanded your attention, no matter how many times you might have seen it before.
In Taken 2, however, that ticking clock is absent. In its place, Besson and Kamen initially give you the reversal of situations, the daughter trying to get to her parents, and tease the potential for growth and new characterization for Kim as well as development of her relationship with her father. Bryan and his heroics are still center stage, of course, but there’s a chance for Kim to have more to do than just look scared this time, and you want to see her rise to the occasion.
Unfortunately, it seems as though Besson and Kamen ran out of ideas about midway through the script, didn’t know where to take the characters beyond a certain point, and from that point forward the film dissolves into a series of Bourne film series-inspired car chase scenes (with Kim driving the car – kinda fun), repetitive gunplay, and predictable fist fights. All of the tension that made the first film so riveting is absent here, so all you have left is the cast going through the motions. Famke Janssen is wasted as a performer here (since when did she become Hollywood’s go-to “ex-wife”?), and Rade Serbedzija glowers and speechifies as EXACTLY the same villain he’s played in dozens of other better TV series and films. Maggie Grace, for all the work she’s asked to put into the film’s first three acts, makes an unexpectedly early exit, begging the question, “What was the point?”
As for Neeson, he does what he does best here, much like the character he plays, but it’s just not enough to keep things interesting. Don’t let your good memories and the current cult status of the first film “take” you: Taken 2 is time and money better spent watching something else at the theater this weekend.
Score: 2 out of 5
Starring Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Leland Orser, Jon Gries, D.B. Sweeney, Luke Grimes, and Rade Sherbedgia. Directed by Olivier Megaton.
Running Time: 91 minutes
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sensuality.
Every Friday morning at 8:25 during “The Rick Stacy Morning Show” I’ll be bringing you the “Clueless Movie Review” of the week for that weekend’s most anticipated theatrical releases, only on 1059 SUNNY FM!