Movie review: Taken 2

The original Taken was a tiny $25 million Euro-thriller in 2008 with Liam Neeson (at age 56) as its unlikely action-hero. Even he’s admitted he expected it to go straight to DVD.

But it took everyone by surprise as a gritty, violent, old school European action-thriller, with Neeson as an ex-CIA spook with “a particular set of skills” who must rescue his daughter from nasty sex slave traffickers in Paris. He kicked butt, shot first, and didn’t bother taking names.

 

The original Taken was a tiny $25 million Euro-thriller in 2008 with Liam Neeson (at age 56) as its unlikely action-hero. Even he’s admitted he expected it to go straight to DVD.

 

But it took everyone by surprise as a gritty, violent, old school European action-thriller, with Neeson as an ex-CIA spook with “a particular set of skills” who must rescue his daughter from nasty sex slave traffickers in Paris. He kicked butt, shot first, and didn’t bother taking names.

 

Taken made $227 million worldwide. It also turned Neeson into a new-age Chuck Norris, a senior citizen action star who’s enjoyed a purple patch playing action-heroes ever since in Clash of the Titans, The A-Team, Unknown, The Grey and Battleship.

 

So Taken 2 was always going to happen.

 

It’s set several years later, where Bryan Mills (Neeson) invites his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) and his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) to Istanbul, where he has three days work.

 

If you just had your daughter kidnapped by sex traffickers in Paris, would you invite her to Istanbul, nextdoor to the Middle East?

 

This time the relatives of the shady Albanian traffickers Neeson dispatched in the first film are baying for his blood here. This time, it’s him and his ex-wife who are taken and the daughter who must rescue them, with the help of daddy’s “particular set of skills.”

 

It’s a nice inversion the original narrative, with dad and mum taken and the daughter doing the rescuing.

 

Unfortunately, like most sequels, Taken 2 is a major let compared with that cracking original, which came with no fanfare as a tough, relentless, rated MA15+ Euro-thriller with brutish hand-to-hand combat, gripping chase scenes, and cool one-liners.

This sequel is rated M, and it’s a watered down, sanitised retread. It’s as if Hollywood execs hijacked it from its European origins and turned it into an audience-friendly action flick. All the fight been taken out of it, and barely a drop of blood is spilt. There’s none of the bone-crunching punch-ups and take-downs where you can see and hear and feel the crunch of noses being broken or the cracks of teeth being chipped.

 

I bet there will be a much better uncut DVD version down the line.

 

I blame new director Olivier Megaton, who has no idea how to shoot action. He places his cameras far too close to his actors and uses strobe-light editing that make it impossible to see what’s happening.

 

Still, Taken 2 is not without its dopey delights. Neeson again delivers those scary ultimatums and one liners. Kim drives a yellow taxi in a thrilling car chase through Istanbul’s cobbled streets. And in the film’s most hilariously preposterous sequence, Neeson directs his daughter to his location using a map, a shoelace and a grenade. Eat your heart out MacGyver!

 

If Taken 2 was set in the US, if Neeson’s CIA pals joined the action, and if it replicated the edgy, rated MA nastiness of the original, this could have been even better than the original.

 

Instead, it’s a toned down, crowd-friendly, rated M let down that’s more mild than wild.

 

Score – 5 out of 10

 

 

 

 

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