Four years ago, retired CIA agent Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), stopped at nothing to save his 17 year old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), kidnapped in Paris by Albanian kidnappers to be sold into prostitution. Murad (Rade Serbedzija), the father of one of the kidnappers killed by Mills in that operation has sworn revenge and takes Mills and his wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) hostage during their family vacation in Istanbul. Mills enlists his daughter to help them escape.
Review by Louise Keller:
Following the same formula as the 2008 original, Taken 2 might tick all the boxes for the genre, but there's something missing. Credibility. With a better script and a different director, it might be a different story, but even with charismatic Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills in charge of the relentless action, the premise struggles to maintain its credence. Without doubt, Neeson is the film's greatest asset, imbuing authority and presence as he heroically takes command of the situation, reversing the tables on his adversaries as he protects his family. But is it enough?
In the opening sequence in the remote countryside of Albania, as grieving parents toss earth onto the coffins of their loved ones, an oath of revenge is taken. Rade Serbedzija is effective as the revengeful Murad, whose son was one of those killed by former CIA agent Mills in the original film. Screenwriters Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kemen have opted to make this sequel begin at the end of the last film, seemingly working too hard to make the title make sense. When Bryan rings his teenage daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), as she relaxes by the hotel pool in Istanbul, saying 'Your mother and I have been taken', a ripple of laughter flickered through the cinema. More laughter when Kim asks her father 'What are you going to do?' and to which he replaces 'What I do best.'
To be fair to the film, there are numerous good things if you are looking for non demanding action involving big guns that deliver massive bullet holes, exciting car chases, exotic locations and a few laughs. The textures and colours of the Istanbul setting are rich and varied and Grace has an appealing presence as Mills' daughter. It's a thankless role for Famke Janssen as Mills' ex-wife, who spends most of her time captive with eyes closed, but Serbedzija makes an impression, especially as the forlorn figure waiting in an armchair in a trashed room beside an upturned grand piano.
Banal dialogue aside, I worried about Olivier Megaton's direction of the action scenes, when frenetic editing, jumpy camera work and tight close ups that collide to suck out all the juice and sense of what is happening. The roof top action sequence is effective as are the car chases, especially the one in which it is Grace who is driving through the narrow Istanbul streets, crashing into police cars and making impossible turns at high speed. There's a running gag concerning Grace's upcoming driving test, adding to the irony of the situation. And Bryan's obsessive fatherly concern about Grace's boyfriend. But tension is never allowed to build and the incredulity of the plot constantly acts as a handbrake to what might otherwise have been great escapism.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's hard to understand why Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) and Lenore (Famke Janssen) got divorced back then, given how amicably they behave as we start this second kidnap adventure from the pens of Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kemen. But the writers have to establish the family as a unit once again so they can face jeopardy as a unit, so Lenore has to break up with her current partner. This is done with great economy in the screenplay as we settle down to the business of being thrilled in Istanbul.
The location is rationalised by work commitments for ex-CIA security man Bryan Mills, who is the revenge target for Albanian crim Murad (Rade Serbedzija), whose son - among others - was killed when they kidnapped Bryan and Lenore's teenage daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), from a Paris street. That was four years ago and Murad has been stewing ever since. He and his network of thugs buy and steal information to learn where Mills is going to be - and Istanbul is not too far from Albania to make the hit.
All this is rapidly established, including a funeral scene in flashback with the bodies of the Albanian gangsters being sorrowfully buried and Murad swearing revenge. These early scenes have a powerful mood as the danger is spelt out.
Liam Neeson has the screen authority to give Mills the credibility he needs to convince us of his credentials, and Famke Jenssen does a good job as the fearful wife. Maggie Grace returns as Kim and goes through the paces as the young woman put into extraordinary situations. As for Rade Serbedzija, his long list of credits as an East European baddie serves to prove that he can do this sort of work with his eyes shut and hands tied behind his back. That doesn't happen, and he tends to overdo it in places but that's probably at the behest of director Olivier Megaton - whose adopted surname is a billboard for how he approaches filmmaking; he was originally Olivier Fontana and the original Taken was directed - with somewhat more restraint - by Pierre Morel.
The script often feels perfunctory as if written by a template, and the action is likewise predictable, constantly bleeding authenticity. The film ends up as a series of messily shot chases, in cars along narrow Istanbul streets and alleys, on foot over Istanbul rooftops and in stall-filled alleys, or through shoddy buildings and basements. Gun fights and wrestles are similarly messily shot, disconnecting us from the action through the fog of the filmmaking approach.
The core of the plot is based on the concept that this time it is Kim rescuing dad; the setup is taut, but the execution often looks and sounds hokey and contrived. These elements detract from what might have been a reliable sequel, based on a useful and credible idea.
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TAKEN 2 (M)
CAST: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Rade Serbedzija, Luke Grimes, Leland Orser, Lueneil
PRODUCER: Luc Besson
DIRECTOR: Olivier Megaton
SCRIPT: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Romain Lacourbas
EDITOR: Camille Delamarre, Vincent Tabaillon
MUSIC: Nathaniel Mechaly
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Sebastien Inizan
RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 4, 2012