Taken 2 (Twentieth Century Fox, PG-13)

film taken2_75Ultimately, Taken 2 is nonsense. If you asked me if it was a good movie, I would say no. But if you asked me if I enjoyed it, the answer is yes.

 

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I am a huge James Bond fan. I love Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. I like Die Hard 2. The point I’m making is that I have a pretty high tolerance for formulaic, mindless action movies that simply repeat what’s been done before. That’s why I liked Taken. I think a lot of people think Taken is a better movie than it is. It’s nothing great, barely even good. What Taken has is four or five really memorable moments and the sheer intensity of Liam Neeson; that’s all. Other than that, it is just a modern day telling of Commando, and every bit as silly. Taken 2 currently has a 9% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. After my screening, I heard several people grumbling about what a letdown it was. I don’t understand these people. Taken was a silly, over-the-top, but mostly enjoyable action movie, and Taken 2 follows suit.

Based on the trailers, I assumed that Taken 2would be a pretty direct retelling of the first film, and it mostly is. Bryan Mills has managed to become a slightly more active figure in his daughter’s and ex-wife’s lives after saving the daughter from evil European sex traffickers in the last film. His daughter, Kim, played by 29-year old Maggie Grace, is trying to get her drivers license and learn what love is with her first serious boyfriend. She’s also doing very well coping with whatever post traumatic stress disorder she probably has from her earlier adventure. Mills’ ex-wife, Lenore, is not doing so well. She’s been separated from her other husband. The three of them end up going on vacation in Istanbul where, unfortunately, villains wait to immediately capture them.

The villain here is Rade Serbedzija, whom you know as “that Russian guy,” the father of one of the men Mills killed in the first film. He has his men capture Mills and Lenore. They do so, but are unsuccessful at obtaining the daughter. Here is where Taken 2 gets a little creative. Kim is the one who is free and has to become involved in the action. In some ways, she has to save her father, who has been taken. In print, this sounds terrible, but I actually really enjoyed this section of the movie. Neeson talks her through every step of the way, and somehow, this never strained credibility for me, at least not too much.

Taken 2 was directed by Olivier Megaton, one of the lower tier members of the Luc Besson director team. Unlike Pierre Morel, who made the fantastic District 13 before doing the first Taken, Megaton doesn’t bring much new to the table: He is competent, but tends to ape others’ success. For example, one of the best films of last year was Drive, another Hollywood action movie made by a European director. One thing fans of Drive focused on was the music. Taken 2 borrows two tracks from that soundtrack, one as a piece of barely noticeable background music, and one to build tension in an unforgiveable rip-off sequence. To steal so blatantly from a movie so recent does not do this one any favors.

Ultimately, Taken 2 is nonsense. If you asked me if it was a good movie, I would say no. But if you asked me if I enjoyed it, the answer would be yes. I feel the same way about the original. The first film has more standout moments, but the second feels more consistent overall. I think, for a lot of people, the novelty of having Liam Neeson as the lead in this sort of movie elevated the first film. Don’t get me wrong: I love Neeson as an action hero. It takes me back to the ’70s, when character actors like Charles Bronson were given roles that now are reserved for pretty teenagers. Taken 2 ends with Mills and his daughter looking cartoonishly happy while getting ice cream, which is the same way Commando begins. It’s deliciously bad, but if you’re the kind of person who enjoys these movies—and you know who you are—then I can’t see any reason to avoid this one. | Sean Lass

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