Why Mysterious Istanbul Makes a Perfect Backdrop for the Action in ‘Taken 2’

Guest Blog: Why the writers of "Taken 2" chose Istanbul for its sequel is undoubtedly because of its mystery

"Taken 2" takes place in Istanbul, which brought back fond memories. My mother and I visited this city shrouded in mystery when I was a flight attendant for Pan American Airlines.

Istanbul has an unfair reputation for being a dangerous city filled with menacing Turks. During our trip around the world, my mother and I had not met a more chivalrous group of men. It was about to rain one day in October, and we were approaching a huge circle with eight streets converging. Rush hour — how were we to cross, as there were no traffic lights? Two men approached from either side of us and grabbed our elbows and led us through the congestion. We thanked them as best we could and went back to the Hilton. 

Istanbul is a beautiful city with many exquisite mosques, monuments and treasures to be seen.  Why the writers of "Taken 2" chose it for its sequel is undoubtedly because of its mystery. The bigger question is: Why did Liam Neeson invite his family back to Istanbul so near to the scene of the original crime? Didn’t he realize that the hate-mongering Albanians were multiplying with rapid speed and could be out to seek revenge for the bloody trail Neeson made in killing the men who kidnapped his daughter?

"Taken 2" is a good sequel for those who were fans of the original, but it is not great. The opening scenes are edited with flash-bang wizardry and get you into the film without time to fasten your seat belt. Bryan (Neeson) invites his estranged wife, the competent Lenore (Famke Janssen), on a holiday in Istanbul with his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). Lenore and Kim hem and haw about wanting to go but then appear in Istanbul, surprising Bryan.

But the family does not surprise the Albanian terrorists who are laying in wait for Bryan because he killed their sons. Moored Krasniqi (Rade Sherbedjia) has vowed to seek revenge for Bryan's bloody murderous swath of his family. Bryan and Lenore are almost immediately captured leaving Kim to hold the familial fort. Kim does a bang-up job of taking direction from Bryan over her cell. (Oh, where would we be without technology in these action films?)

Here the plot loses a bit more credibility, as Bryan instructs Kim over the cell about to find Lenore and him in congested Istanbul with one marketplace built upon the other. Lenore is being tortured by the Albanians, while Kim has managed to escape the terrorists who had wanted to capture the entire family and transport all three to Albania, then kill them in a public demonstration of loyalty to the sons that Bryan slaughtered. 

The acting is top-drawer, and Neeson manages to hold the audience's attention, save for fleeting laughable moments when Bryan is a bit too deft in his ability to kill off Albanians. Olivier Megaton’s direction fell apart in the end. It could be that Neeson was not believable to those audience members adept with gun-slinging or that the action sequences had been seen before. 

Then there were too many chases, as they seemed to be the focus of the plot. Car chases and stars running along the roofs of Istanbul's markets, and while this made for action and glorious shots of Turkey, they were a bit tiring and did not make up for what was lacking in plot. 

Screenwriter Luc Besson should have watched more closely to avoid the repetitive phrases from the original of Bryan, whom we all know by now is a former CIA agent. In "Taken 2," Bryan says phrases directly from the original "Taken." But all in all no one was expecting a sequel to be a masterpiece, and a good time was had watching Bryan outwit the Albanians with his 'special set of skills.'