Movie Review: Taken 2

Stars: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Rade Serbedzija

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sensuality, Running time 91 minutes, Action/Adventure/Thriller

Compare to: From Paris with Love (2010), Columbiana (2011)

When Taken 2 was first announced, I thought it was a joke. Much like Hangover 2, I didn’t understand why a movie with such a simple story, from beginning to end, needed to be expanded upon. The difference between Taken and Hangover though, is that Taken was good.

The difference between their sequels are also similar. But while The Hangover 2 was absolutely awful, Taken 2 is surprisingly not…awful. It’s not anything in particular, it just is. Don’t follow? You’ll see what I mean.

A year after the events of Taken, retired CIA operative Brian Mills (Neeson) gets a surprise visit from his daughter and ex-wife in Istanbul. Little do they know that Murad Hoxha, one of Brian’s victims in the first film, has vowed to exact bloody revenge on Brian and his family for what Brian did to his son. Whatever Hoxha is plans to do, you can bet Brian will be prepared to whatever he needs to do to protect his family.

I’ve always been told (although I haven’t found evidence) that the first Taken was meant to go directly to DVD because the studio didn’t think it would make any money over here. That’s crazy because it’s got Liam Neeson in it and even his crap movies make money. He’s awesome. But I imagine that whatever reason the studio might not have thought the film would do will in the US is what Taken 2 actually is. Not bad and not that good. Sure, it’s fun to see Neeson beat up more people and shoot more too, all in the name of saving his family; but will we feel like we’ve actually progressed by the end? Nah.

If you’ve ever seen Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008), you may understand how I feel. HBII:TGA was the same movie as Hellboy, with villains going under different looks, a simple line or two to tell you that the story has moved the characters forward, but no real action. I felt like I was watching the same movie, even down to the quality. The only difference was that I’d already seen it in an earlier film, making the sequel lax.

I could help but laugh to myself while I watched certain scenes that were similar enough to the original. It seemed like every line should have had the word “again” after every sentence. “Dad! You’ve got to let me be my own person. Again.” “Sweetie, they’re going to take you again.” “You’re going to be okay again.”
As mentioned, it was fun to watch Neeson do what he does best throughout the film while the villains themselves seemed to have been hired at the unemployment line just looking for any kind of work they can get their hands on because they’re not very good at their job. But then again, nether is their boss. He seems fine with the Bond villain way: Get the only man who’s ever been a threat to you, have him in the palm of your hand…then leave the room with one goon or nobody. Oy.

But that’s not to say there’s no enjoyment in this one.

There was enough substance in the first one that by virtually copying it still results in an entertaining movie all around. There were several instances it seemed the creators were going to take the cliched route when they quickly go a different direction to make for exciting scenes that have you wonder who’s going to have their face punched in or if Neeson might actually get caught. Or should I say “taken?” No? Okay, fine.

So the movie doesn’t feel lazy, but perhaps just tired.

Overall, what we’ve got on our hands is a film made simply because the first made too much money on such a small budget that they weren’t going to be able to leave it alone in good conscious. It would almost be fiscally irresponsible. On a 26 million budget, it made 226 million back and I don’t have to tell you how great that is. Will this do the same? I don’t care, to be honest. I’d rather unnecessary sequels didn’t happen when there’s no new story to tell. But more important than that, will you, the viewer enjoy it? Eh, some of it. It’s a little more varied in the actions Neeson goes through but loses the single-minded fun of the first.

Grade: C+

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