Liam Neeson’s bad-ass ex-CIA agent returns in a less plausible and far less thrilling second go-round
After scoring a hit with the implausible, ridiculous, jingoistic and undeniably entertaining “Taken,” screenwriters Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen have decided to cross the line into sheer stupidity with “Taken 2,” barfing out a script that defies logic and common sense and handing over the directorial reins to the colossally untalented Olivier Megaton.
Megaton, the former graffiti artist who previously sank one Besson franchise with “Transporter 3” before giving the world the ludicrous “Colombiana,” does to action sequences what a food processor does with an onion, to much less appetizing results. Between the hacky plot points and the brain-punishing editing, “Taken 2” is less a movie than it is a cinematic waterboarding.
Liam Neeson returns as Bryan Mills, the former CIA agent and overprotective dad who rescued his virginal daughter Kim (the vapid Maggie Grace) from the clutches of evil brown men in the first film. Unaware that Albanian crime boss Murad (Rade Serbedzija) has sworn revenge on Bryan for gunning down Murad’s son and other goons from the same village in the first movie, Bryan invites Kim and his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) to join him on a trip to Istanbul.
Murad and a new group of Albanians (the only identifying characteristic the movie gives them is to make them swarthy and Muslim) turn up to kidnap the entire clan, but after they grab Bryan and Lenore, Bryan manages to warn Kim and tell her how to avoid the bad guys and aid in the rescue of her parents.
While Bryan’s “particular set of skills” made him such a memorable bad-ass in the first movie, his advice to Kim this time around seems less than professional. First, he has her hide in a hotel room closet, and only through sheer luck do the would-be kidnappers avoid opening the door and grabbing her on the spot. After that, Bryan’s strategy for pinpointing his location involves having Kim set off grenades all over the city — because, you know, who would notice?
The film’s centerpiece involves Kim driving a stolen taxi through Istanbul while Bryan shoots at pursuers as police cars chase after everyone. It’s been established that she’s failed her drivers’ test several times, but somehow Kim whips through traffic like a seasoned stunt driver, and with a stick shift, no less.
And lest you think “sports car plows through fruit cart” had become such a cliché that you’d never see it again on the big screen, it’s back with a vengeance, thanks to Megaton.
If “Taken 2” had the same adrenaline-overdrive pacing as the original, little things like believability and logic wouldn’t matter. But while “Taken” director Pierre Morel knew how to stage gunfights and car chases and martial-arts combat, Megaton’s trademark ADD turns all the excitement into a jittery manic episode that drains away all the movie’s fun.
“I am tired of it all,” says Bryan in his eventual face-off with Murad, and by that point in the film, audiences may be inclined to agree with him. If this is the best Besson and company can come up with, they should leave the “Taken” franchise the way they do Janssen’s character through much of this sequel — abandoned and forgotten.