I was a huge fan of 2008’s Taken, which was a surprise hit with the masses and made Liam Neeson a legitimate action star. To remind you of that film’s premise, and you’d best know before going to the sequel, I’ll turn to IMDb: “A retired CIA agent travels across Europe and relies on his old skills to save his estranged daughter, who was kidnapped on a trip to Paris to be sold into prostitution.”
Now, here’s IMDb’s description of Taken 2: “In Istanbul, retired CIA operative Bryan Mills and his wife are taken hostage by the father of a kidnapper Mills killed while rescuing his daughter.”
I tempered my expectations for the sequel for fear that it might have been slapped together as a money-making machine and would neglect the things that made the first so great—a father’s unwavering devotion, no timidity, and a certain level of justified ferociousness. The biggest red flag that might be the case was the director of the first, Pierre Morel, had been replaced by Olivier Megaton, best known for Colombiana and Transporter 3.
In the back of my head, I expected Taken 2 to suck, and I was prepared to deal with it; after all, the first film came out of nowhere and set the bar high. Much to my surprise, Taken 2 proved to be more than a decent sequel. They did a few things wrong, but overall I felt it captured the essence of the first film while exploring the grey area between justice and revenge.
Taken 2 toed the line of being a cookie-cutter copy, but there were enough subtle differences to set it apart while capitalizing on storylines established in the first. Again, Neeson proves an unlikely badass, and Maggie Grace, who played his daughter Kim, did a good job of transitioning from victim to aggressor. I was also very pleased to see Famke Janssen have an expanded role as Mill’s wife Lenore. To say she was underutilized in the first would be an understatement, and I’m glad they learned from that mistake.
Unfortunately there were a few things that detracted from the film—mainly some notable inaccuracies. For example, Kim was struggling with passing her driver’s test, but was suddenly Mario Andretti in a car chase through Istanbul. Speaking of which, they portrayed Istanbul as being somewhat third-world, when in actuality it’s one of Europe’s most developed cities. Likewise, Albania doesn’t border Turkey as suggested in the film, and with so much gunfire in the city, you’d expect more of a police presence. While the filmmaker’s attention to detail was admirable in many scenes (i.e. Mills and Kim knowing to keep there heads down and call for help after plowing a car into the U.S. embassy), it was noticeably lacking in others.
The other big disappointment was lackluster death scenes, most notably two at the end. I don’t want to spoil who bites the dust, but they were offed in an uncreative manner; in fact, it was hard to tell how they even died. I chalk this up to the friendly PG-13 rating.
Taken 2 wasn’t as good as the original, but I felt it was an excellent sequel that tied in nicely to its predecessor. Simply put, if you liked Taken then you’ll like Taken 2. Also, be sure to enjoy it because the film’s writer, Luc Besson, has already said there won’t be a third.
Buddies Forever Movie Club Rating: 75%