Review: 'Taken 2' is Just Lazy Action Undeserving of Liam Neeson
by Jeremy Kirk
October 5, 2012
It's good knowing Liam Neeson is out there making worthwhile action and being extraordinarily classy doing it. He's become the action star we've wanted but never really deserved, and films like Taken 2 are the reason why. Sadly they had to take Neeson down with them. All the typical punch-and-kick action you would expect from a Luc Besson-written-and-produced follow-up with none of the intrigue and even less of the charm, Taken 2 is even less than a brainless but fun time at the movie theaters. It's lazy. It was good having Neeson around at first, but now the Hollywood machine has just turned him into another cliche. Read on!
As the title suggests - They thankfully decided against the more obvious Taken, Too - there's another kidnapping and another series of action set pieces to reunite loved one in peril from loved one who likes punching and shooting people. This time around, Neeson's Bryan Mills, the man with a "certain set of skills," is the one taken along with his ex-wife, played once again by Famke Janssen. The couple and their daughter, the returning Maggie Grace, find themselves on vacation in Istanbul, Bryan's attempt at reconciling with his wife as strong as his willingness to memorize every turn in the city. What he wasn't expecting, though, was the father of henchmen he killed retrieving his daughter in Paris in Taken.
Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, both returning screenwriters from the predecessor, make every attempt at fleshing out their villain here, the subplot of a father losing his son and the drive for revenge against our film's protagonist an interesting one. Rade Serbedzija, a cliche unto himself when it comes to action movie villains, froths about his murdered loved ones, but even though the emotion may be on the page, it's rarely pushed through to the final film.
The "Thank You" card for that can be sent to director Olivier Megaton, whose work on action films like Transporter 3 and Columbiana never even came close to living up to that name. He's strictly a point-and-shoot director, never creating anything of interest with his frame or working to pump up the energy within any individual shot. There's a lot of fast-paced cutting in Taken 2, almost as much as there are closeups and shaky camera work, but none of it amounts to anything. Certain action scenes deliver just the right amount of excitement you would want or expect, but there's never a sense the director is reaching for something greater than a substandard actioner. That's precisely what he delivers.
The detachment in interest allows moviegoers to find the humor in Besson and Kamen's screenplay, something it provides on a number of occasions. As Bryan and his wife are the ones taken, it's up to their daughter to find her way to them and working them free of their captors. Lucky them and not us, Bryan is just as good explaining his skills as he is utilizing them, and by the time he has his daughter chucking grenades throughout Istanbul as a sort-of sonar to find one another, the movie has completely fallen into comedy territory. At least it's good for a few laughs or the thought of Maggie Grace turning into an action star might have you reaching for a cigarette to put out in your eye.
Neeson's air of badassery is always on display, even when it appears the actor is sleepwalking through his part. The laziness in Taken 2 doesn't stop with Megaton's directing or Besson and Kamen's screenplay. Lines like "I killed your son, because he took my daughter" might have some kind of emotional resonance if the actor delivering them is fully on board. Neeson doesn't seem to be for much of Taken 2, and his delivery of the line "I'm tired of it all" late in the film says it all. It's in the way he turned "tired" into a word that has three or four syllables. At least he creates that presence, or else his character would seem as pointless as the three buddies back home who still don't do anything after two movies. Seriously, why is Jon Gries in this movie?
And like Neeson, fans of action are tired of the cliche-ridden, assembly-line movies they should be enjoying. Likely, Neeson and even the younger, action counterparts like Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson will have ups and downs in the world of action films. Some will be huge crowd-pleasers with an abundance of clever action and engaging storytelling, while others will fall on the side of Taken 2, a lame attempt at continuing a franchise that's already scraping the bottom of its well two movies in. It comes and goes without a fleeting hint of sticking around in your brain, but even on surface-level entertainment value, it's grip is shaky at best. At times, though, it works well as a comedy.
Jeremy's Rating: 4 out of 10