Movie Review: Taken 2Posted: October 11, 2012
The follow up to the hugely successful action thriller Taken arrives, and this time its even more personal.
In 2008, Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) went on a roaring rampage of revenge across Paris to get his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) back from East European human traffickers. Along the way he killed, tortured and maimed his way through a parade of scumbags. But, even scumbags have families, and now the father of one of his victims and head of the Albanian mob, Murad (Rade Serbedzija) wants revenge and the mob are after him.
In Istanbul for work, Mills is joined by Kim and his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen), who’s current marriage is disintegrating. Kim is trying to play matchmaker and get her parents back together and so is still at the hotel when Bryan and Lenore are ambushed. They’re taken, but before surrendering Bryan manages to call Kim and help her evade capture.
He then uses a stashed mini-phone to work out their location and help Kim come to aid them. Kim races across town and the two are reunited, but Lenore is still in the hands of the criminals.
Can Bryan get Kim to safety with the entire mob on their tail? Can he find and rescue Lenore, and if so, will they get back together? Will Kim ever leave her house, let alone the United States ever again? And just how many people does he have to kill before the Albanian mob decides that they should just leave him be?
Here’s the thing, when I heard there was going to be a sequel to Taken I was kinda stoked, the first film was a fantastic, dark and brutal action movie with Neeson bringing softly spoken gravitas to the role of Bryan, the father with a dodgy past out for justice. The scene where he talks to the kidnappers over the phone is a phenomenal and rich with menace and restrained fury.
My one problem was that I feared we’d be in complete retread mode, like with Die Hard 2: Die Harder, but it chooses instead to be a direct follow up. The idea of the same gang coming after him is a nice touch, even if you do just find yourself thinking “Are these guys stupid or something?”
Don’t get me wrong, revenge works as a motive just fine, but if you’d seen how he tore through your boys the first time wouldn’t you be a bit wary? I love my family, but if someone had been this vicious in taking them down I’d bide my time and pick my moment, like when they were in a coma.
So its a case of revenge for revenge. It could have laid out an interesting narrative about the vicious circle of revenge which leaves everyone a loser, but the film doesn’t go there it just keeps things simple- Bryan went on a rampage to get revenge for an innocent, Murad’s son was a scumbag and had it coming. Which works for me, even if, in the words of Will Munny, “we all got it coming”.
The fact that Bryan himself is taken is a nice touch, and it means that we get to see Kim making a stand and showing some real grit as his backup on the outside. But aside from that its the same basic formula of Neeson laying the smack down on some swarthy foreigners, although this time there is one henchman at least who seems to know what he’s doing which means we get a much more balanced showdown near the end.
One of the major problems though is that while the first film was a 15, and nudging at the 18 certificate mark, this is a 12A, meaning that the action sequences feel rather toned down and it seems toothless when compared to the shocking brutality of the original. The decision has clearly been made to try and get a bigger audience at the cinema, but in a way it deprives the film of the hard edged tone which was a large part of why the firs film was so successful. That being said, if I was a parent I wouldn’t take an under-12 to see this as its still got a bit of down-and-dirty grit to it.
Being a Luc Besson production its extremely well executed and Olivier Megaton (great name) ensures that the action sequences are done really well, while also allowing brief character moments to ensure we remain engaged, in a similar way as he did on Transporter 3. and it all whistles along at quite a pace, clocking in at around 90 minutes, which is the perfect length for a movie as far as I’m concerned.
Neeson remains magnificent in the lead role, the softly spoken but hard hitting Bryan is a great hero, and its nice to see him engaging with the other characters more. The scenes with his ex-wife and daughter at the start of the film hint at a kind of softness that shows through his weary, reserved exterior. Neeson looks older but in a way it adds to the character, this is someone who has been around the block a few times, seen and done some terrible things and this has coloured his view of the world, making him suspicious and apprehensive.
When the action gets underway this falls away and he reverts back to his cold blooded killer ways, and Neeson looks the part. He’s an actor with genuine presence and he moves through in a predatory way, striking quickly and efficiently at his enemies.
Famke Janssen feels underused as the ex-wife/love interest but does well enough with the little she’s given, and Serbedzija does sleazy menace rather well as the mobster, while also showing the hurt of losing his son at times (it was a little off putting that I spent most of the film trying to work out where I’d seen him before, it turns out he’s Boris the Blade from Guy Richie’s Snatch).
Maggie Grace, who impressed me earlier this year in another Besson movie, Lockout, is great again here. She brings a real vulnerability to Kim, and in the opening stages we see that while she’s attempting to live the normal life of a young lady she’s still haunted by the events of the first film. When things start going awry later on there’s a flash of fear and horror that crosses her face when she realizes what’s happening, and Grace gives a sense of the stomach churning terror that the character must experience when being forced to revisit her traumatic past.
It makes the subsequent scenes believable as Kim shows grit and resilience clearly inherited from her father, and there’s a sense that her reasons for doing this are a reluctance to be a victim again. Also, while she is more proactive there’s no ridiculous transformation to instant badass, just someone who’s willing to do their best in trying to fight back.
This was never going to be a subtle, emotional movie but I did like the way we saw her trying to move past her kidnapping and on with her life, as well as Bryan’s attempts to change and reconnect with his family. They’re brief, fleeting moments before the action kicks in but it worked for me and ensured I was engaged with the characters.
Verdict: A well made, engaging action flick even if it falls far short of its predecessor. Neeson is at the top of his game again as the quiet man of violence, and Grace is engaging and sympathetic as his haunted daughter attempting to sort her life out. Just a shame the whole film has a feeling of being neutered and sanitized with the dark, gritty and brutal edge that made the first film being smoothed out completely. Still, probably a good night in on the sofa movie. 5/10
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.