Starring: Liam Neeson and Maggie Grace
‘Taken” was one of the most surprising hits of recent years, grossing over $200 million dollars on a modest budget of roughly $25 million. The film might not have been a revolutionary action picture. There have been loads of other movies about distant fathers/husbands that take the law into their own hands to rescue a family member. Harrison Ford and Bruce Willis notably specialize in this genre. Nevertheless, the original “Taken” was indeed a good film, mainly thanks to Liam Neeson. Up until “Taken,” Neeson had never been viewed as a major action hero. After his immortally cool “I will find you and I will kill you” phone conversation though, Neeson established he was a senior badass not to be reckoned with.
There was no doubt that “Taken” would inspire a sequel. In the tradition of numerous other follow-ups though, the insipidly titled “Taken 2” is nowhere near as much fun as its predecessor. The expectations for this sequel are so high that audiences will try hard to like it. But the fact that people must try to enjoy themselves just goes to show that “Taken 2” isn’t getting the job done. It’s the film that should be doing the heavy lifting, not the audience.
Neeson returns as Bryan Mills, the former CIA operative that’s so skilled in killing people that he could be a terminator. You’d think that this guy would be a national hero and household name after single-handedly saving his daughter from Albanian human traffickers. But, apparently the news never picked the story up. Maggie Grace is also back as Kim, who is doing pretty well for somebody who was kidnapped only a year ago. The biggest dilemma in her life is that she has yet to pass her driving test, which of course means there will be a big car chase somewhere down the line.
Kim joins her dear dad on a trip to Istanbul along with Bryan’s ex-wife, played by Farnke Janssen. The family reunion hits a speed bump, however, when the Albanian kidnappers from the first film track them down. Unwilling to live and let live, they target Bryan and his family. Big mistake guys.
As you can tell from that brief synopsis, “Taken 2” is basically the same movie again for the most part. The only thing that distinguishes the story is that the ex-wife is in the mix now. Maybe in “Taken 3” they’ll up the stakes by having Bryan’s great-aunt, grandmother, and second cousin get captured.
The real fault with “Taken 2” isn’t so much that it’s repetitive, but that it’s not very exciting. Unlike the first film, there’s never a moment in “Taken 2” that will have people unanimously cheering or even chanting, “woo!”
Although Neeson delivers another solid performance as Miller, the lack of suspense makes it hard for the character to be compelling this time around. It doesn’t help that the bad guys in “Taken 2” are bungling for the most part. I’ve come to accept villains in these types of movies making foolish decisions, such as not immediately killing the hero when he’s in custody.
But the baddies here sink to new levels of incompetence. There’s one scene in which they have Bryan and his wife at gunpoint and they actually allow Bryan to make a phone call. They don’t fire a warning shot or even tell him to hang up. They just awkwardly stand there as he makes the call.
While “Taken 2” could have been much better, it also could have been much worse. Those looking to kill an hour and a half might find the film satisfactory. Yet, no one will walk away from the film saying it’s as good or better than the original.
If a sequel can’t accomplish that, then what’s the point?
• Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.