Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is back in action, but this time, instead of trying to save his daughter from a ruthless gang, it is him that is in danger.
2008’s Taken was a total surprise for audiences. Not only could Liam Neeson carry an action thriller, but he could kick all kinds of bad guy ass while he did so, so it was inevitable really that there should be a second instalment in the Taken franchise. The problem is, that there really shouldn’t be.
Liam Neeson channels Jack Bauer in his portrayal of Bryan Mills, albeit a slightly less dysfunctional Jack Bauer – come on, his daughter is called Kim! KIM! – and he decides that the family needs a holiday to get over the fact that one of their number was kidnapped, sold and probably raped. Neeson is as good as ever in the role, but he has some incredibly corny lines that he somehow manages to sell with conviction.
Maggie Grace is as insipid and mediocre as ever in her role as Kim (KIM! Kim Bauer! Seriously!), but this time out we have to deal with a lot more of her on screen as she helps her father by wrecking up most of Istanbul with a stolen car. Famke Janssen is barely worth mentioning, other than the fact that her eyebrows are incredibly distracting. In fact, I spent much of the time when she was on screen wondering what her beautician was trying to achieve. But I digress…
The story here is that one of the nameless henchmen killed in the first movie was the beloved son of the bad guy, and he is out for revenge. This should be enough of a warning that this sequel lacks the imagination of its predecessor. The first film was clever and inventive, but this film seems to be just riding on its coat tails. The story is uninspired, the mystery is not that mysterious and, although Neeson and Grace have a pretty cool car chase, it is clear that the biggest threat to the Mills family unit is the fact that Bryan disapproves of his daughter having a boyfriend.
Director Olivier Megaton lives up to his name, and directs Taken 2 in a hamfisted and clunky way. The elegance and smoothness of the original film is lost as Bryan spends a lot of his time telling his daughter to blow things up so he can tell where she is. I am not even kidding here. It seems that Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen rattled out the screenplay on a rainy afternoon when there was nothing good on TV as the story is predictable and the dialogue is cringe worthy. There are no iconic lines here, the humour of the first film has been lost and so has the empathy the audience had for a man alone in a strange city and desperate to find his daughter.
In all, Taken 2 could have been written as a 24 movie, and definitely would have been better with a little more mystery and perhaps even as a film that did not try to follow one of the most surprising films of recent years. That said, there is fun to be had here, just don’t expect the imagination and exuberance of the original.