Taken 2 (2012)
Director: Olivier Megaton
Cast: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace
Plot: In Istanbul, retired CIA operative Bryan Mills and his wife are taken hostage by the father of a kidnapper Mills killed while rescuing his daughter.
Genre: Action / Crime / Thriller
Rating: PG13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sensuality.
*Guest reviewed by David Lee (Singapore Film Society)
“Listen to me carefully, Kim. Your mother is going to be taken. And people are gonna come for you too.”
The first Taken movie took the industry by storm, effectively re-launching the career of Liam Neeson and his persona as a tough-talking-no-nonsense action hero. Neeson who until then was best known for playing supporting dramatic roles, became an overnight bankable star in successive action driven hits like The A-Team (2010), Unknown (2011) and The Grey (2011). Four years after the first Taken movie, fans couldn’t get enough of Liam Neeson, and a sequel is almost mandatory by market forces. Like most sequels, Taken 2 has failed to live up to its hype.
Switching the key location from Paris to the exotic Istanbul, the main plot twist in the sequel is that it is the adults – Bryan Mills (Neeson) and his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) who are being ‘taken’. Under very dire circumstances, Bryan is able to make not one, but two separate phone calls to his yet to be taken daughter to guide her to safety and to help him escape. The phone call is a direct reference to the first movie, but certainly not as effective this time to convey the sense of danger and urgency. At no point in this movie do we feel that Bryan Mills is in any form of real danger from the perpetrators.
There are several opportunities in the movie for the stereo-typical villains to do less talking and just put a bullet to Bryan Mills’ head when he’s being held captive, but no, the vengeful head honcho wanted to kidnap Mills and his whole family back to his home country of Albania, so that Mills would not die an easy death. In fact, they even left him unguarded and tied in an underground chamber so that he can call his daughter and free himself. We all know how the story ends from here already…
Obvious plot holes and cliché avenging Muslim villains aside, surely the action sequences are exciting enough to whet the appetite of thrill seekers? Well our hero Bryan Mills did kick ass, in super quick cuts hand to hand combat, gun fights, and car chases that seem to go on forever. That car chase scene ends with the obligatory speeding across an incoming train. Guess who got hit by the train? Hint: Not our hero.
How can action sequences be thrilling if our hero is not under any real danger, with many of the sequences having a déjà-vu quality to it, done even better before in countless other action movies. Taken 2 is a disappointment taken at face value, and if we look deeper, it might even be quite insulting to some with its overt racial and cultural stereotypes and disregard for the locals.
Apparently, no one, not even the local police in Istanbul could be trusted, and our hero can literally advice his daughter to just throw hand grenades at her own whim with little regard for the consequences. The only safe place for the American tourists is the heavily guarded American Embassy, and even then, they have to make a spectacular crashing entry. I wonder what is the message that the filmmakers are trying to convey, especially in today’s tension between the Arab world and the West. Do such portrayals of stereotypes and gungho American psyche help?
Verdict: Cliché ridden and predictable plot, only recommended for hardcore fans of Liam Neeson.
GRADE: F (4/10 or 1.5 stars)
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