Liam Neeson is out for blood yet again in the sequel ‘Taken 2′, a frenzied follow-up to the original 2008 spy actioner that starred the stoic Oscar-nominated actor. Neeson reprises his role as ex-CIA agent Bryan Mills whose entanglement with the bad guys goes through the chaotic motions in tedious, exaggerated fashion. Prolonged and strained, ‘Taken 2′ is a sketchy and by-the-numbers espionage thriller that attempts to take on some absurdist intensity in this clunky kinetic caper.
Director Olivier Megaton, along with screenwriters in producer Luc Beeson and Robert Mark Kamen, conjure up another limp and loose script featuring an irksome excuse for the brooding Neeson to parade around while acting like some unconventional middle-aged killing machine out to exact revenge on a global playground that has scorned him once too many times. Megaton does try to pump up the testosterone tactics of mischievous gunplay, over-the-top car chases, angst-ridden revenge and itchy intrigue but ‘Taken 2′ is conceived in preposterous and synthetic excitement that one cannot help but wonder how or why the first installment was so riveting in the first place.
As many recall in ‘Taken’, Neeson’s former governmental operative was backed into a raucous corner when dealing with the sadistic Albanian adversaries that snatched his teen daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) while conducting a lucrative sex trade business. Naturally this resulted in the moody Mills applying all the tricks of his talented agenda to rescue his abducted offspring. Of course Mills had to resort to drastic measures in slaughtering the riff raff en route to saving his “little girl”. The maturing machismo of super spy Bryan Mills actually resonated with audiences despite the standard frenetic twitchiness of the frivolous, aimless material.
This time around Mills finds the tables turned on him when his staunch foes determine to go after him and his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) whom he eagerly wants to reclaim romantically. In an ironic twist, it would be Kim’s heroic endeavors to assist in freeing her parents from the foreign foes that once haunted her. Indeed it is a family affair as the Mills are up to their necks in terrorist turmoil.
Prior to the family-oriented kidnapping, the Los Angeles-based Mills clan had been trying to piece together their domestic dynamics. When business relocates Mills to Istanbul, soon Lenore and Kim decide to join him there. It is not long before the miffed menaces that Mills has taunted previously take the golden opportunity to capture and torture them.
Strangely, the family-in-jeopardy genre seems to be the nuanced norm nowadays in action-packed spy thrillers. It was certainly a cute and suspenseful concept in 1994’s delightfully cockeyed ‘True Lies’ and 2001’s ‘Spy Kids’ where spunk and spontaneity took center stage involving the relatives-at-risk angle. True, these were action-oriented comedies to a certain degree. However, in frolicking fare such as the ‘Taken’ franchise (and the recent release of this year’s forgettable spy yarn ‘The Cold Light Of Day’) the serious-minded concept of the roguish and frustrated family man seeking justice for his clan through gun-toting consciousness and carnage is firmly looking like a tired and cartoonish cliché.
In hindsight, one cannot blame Neeson for returning to the outlandish movie series that actually gave him relevance and revived his on-screen career at the box office a handful of years ago. Still, Neeson’s Bryan Mills seems to drag through the contrivance of hammy fist fights, recycled transportation pursuits through the cluttered Istanbul streets and stone-faced mugging in the confrontation of the film’s manufactured danger. In the first movie ‘Taken’, there was a sense of contemplation and quiet defiance in Neesom’s pouty protagonist that seemed somewhat refreshingly distinctive. The second time around, however, comes off as feebly forced and fraudulent.
In fact, it takes ‘Taken 2′ to gradually muster up the canned action sequences that for the most part are about as lively and original as a bowl of warm tomato soup. This sequel barely uplifts itself from the predecessor blueprint as the acting is wooden, writing is pedestrian, editing is choppy and the cast looking like they would rather be attending a traveling clown rodeo in Tucson.
Should there be another kidnapping taking place in ‘Taken 3′, might we recommend the film’s handlers along with Neeson’s fictional familial brood as the intended targets? And please…no fussing over how the ransom note should read, okay?
Taken 2 (20th Century Fox)
1 hr. 30 mins.
Starring: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace
Directed by: Olivier Megaton
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
Genre: Spy Thriller/Mystery & Suspense/Action & Adventure