Review by The Isolated Moviegoer:
Brian Mills (Liam Neeson) is one fearless dude. After knocking out a sex-trafficking ring in 2008’s Taken, the ex-CIA operative continues to roam the globe in this unintentionally goofy sequel, providing security to those who request his services. His daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), whom he rescued from said European prostitution, is likewise unaffected by her traumatic experience. Instead of entering intensive therapy and locking herself in a panic room like most survivors might, she and her mother Lenore (Famke Janssen) are jazzed to vacation in China not so long after her rescue.
When those plans fall through, Brian invites them to join him in Istanbul and they jump at the opportunity. Naturally, it’s a tragic decision. Murad Krasniqi (Rade Serbedzija), father of the sex trafficker Brian killed in the first go-round, seeks revenge and plans to even the score by offing Kim and Lenore in front of Brian. Following a brief chase through the crowded Turkish streets, Brian and Lenore are…wait for it…taken, though Kim manages to elude her abductors are the hotel.
So begins a rehash and subsequent ruining of what made Taken an unexpected hit. Four years ago, Neeson as vigilante was a novel sight, but since then he’s led the A-Team and punched a wolf. With the New Action Star smell gone, something else must rise to fill its void, yet nothing does. The high-octane sequences of Oliver Megaton’s film are the same old shootouts, car chases, and middle-aged male hand-to-hand combat expected of such a mindless thriller. It’s fun on some level, but does little but perpetuate the action genre’s limitations.
Likewise, the didactic speech that felt fun and fresh coming from Neeson in the first Taken dominates the sequel to the point of parody. At every opportunity, Brian has a new set of instructions to relay as if he’s an audiobook version of an owner’s manual.
The verbal style reaches a new level of ridiculousness in a wacky scene involving Kim and a map. After asking if she can safely get out of a closet (is that a trick question?), Brian, tied up in a basement and using his Go Go Gadget spy phone, guides her through an advanced cartography exercise of circle-drawing and cardinal directions. Aiding his comically confident orientation are grenades tossed by Kim through her hotel room window, exploding on Istanbul’s rooftops without consequence. Just another day in Turkey, apparently.
Still, the recycled action moves quickly and meshes well with the unintentionally funny bits. Despite lacking a driver’s license, Kim proves a natural stunt driver, weaving through Istanbul’s streets with a manual transmission, no less. The ideal damsel in distress, Lenore wakes from a death-like stillness more times than the number at the end of the film’s title. The Mills family is just full of surprises.
Speaking of the franchise’s future, the final showdown yields a groan-inducing hint at a minimum of two more sequels. Delivered with the kind of obvious, knowing tone direct from an Abrahams/Zucker take on the material, it’s nonetheless sure to come to fruition. This is Luc Besson’s baby, after all. If he can spin La Femme Nikita’s premise in various iterations for over two decades and keep Jason Statham transporting, we haven’t heard the last set of instructions from Neeson.
All of that misfortune pales in comparison to what could be the year’s best line. In storming the hotel, one of Murad’s henchmen enters the wrong room and blasts its occupant. Realizing his mistake, he informs his colleague, “I shot some guy!” before the action moves on. For accidental comedic moments like this and Megaton’s refusal to slow the tempo, Taken 2 isn’t as bad as it sounds. That doesn’t mean it’s good, either, but at least it doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sensuality.
Taken 2 is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.
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