Former CIA agent Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson, Batman Begins) is desperate to live a normal life. Having saved his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace, Lost) from Albanian sex traffickers, Bryan wants to be more involved in her life; but his ‘specific skillset’ clashes often with the outside world, whether it’s her plans to date or prepare for her third driving test. He is also trying to regain the trust of his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen, X-Men), who is going through a messy breakup. What Bryan doesn’t know is that most of the men he killed in the first Taken film were part of an Albanian family whose patriarchal leader Murad (Rade Serbedzija, Mission Impossible II) has vowed revenge. His plan is simple: capture Mills and his family and make Bryan suffer the consequences of his death hunt. A working trip to Istanbul sees Bryan and family re-united as both appear to be ready to resume their lives together. But as the plot is hatched and Mills is taken prisoner, Bryan must call upon the services of an unaware Kim to spring him loose before he and Lenore disappear into the Albanian wilderness.
The problem here is that Co-Writer/Producer Luc Besson (Taken) and Director Oliver Megaton (Transporter 3) make two incredibly short-sighted assumptions: first, they assume that our bad guys aren't really that smart. These are supposed to be people who make a living from sex slave trafficking, and yet none of them seem tough or even intelligent enough to match wits or fists with Mills. None of them can shoot straight or even drive, as shown in a silly sequence as Kim and Bryan race to the American Embassy in a stolen taxi. Although she's failed her driving test twice, these lawless and sadistic men cannot keep up with Kim, demonstrating their complete ineptitude with each poorly-edited rollover and collision. By the time she and dad smash through the American Embassy (somehow escaping instant death by the sentries who themselves appear to need additional training), we're caught laughing not as a relief from the high action, but from the incredulity of the moment.
But there's a worst sin which permeates Taken 2: the creative team assumes that moviegoers are there to be merely entertained, that they somehow don't need good storytelling to enjoy their project. This assumption is demonstrated time and again as Besson and Megaton lose the audience in a superfluous backstory about Bryan's estranged wife and the nonsensical situations which Bryan employs Kim to rescue him. In a sense, they’re trying desperately to create a Bourne-like film, without really knowing how one works. Give us great combat with improbable resolutions, but also give us a story that can keep up with the action. By the end of Act 2, the audience knows how this story will end, and that Albanian sex traffickers should have spent more time at weapons school, obtaining the training necessary to handle just one mad guy with a pistol. This miscalculation manifests itself across the storyline, even going so far as to marginalize the effectiveness of our actors. When your female lead with the acumen of a Famke Janssen spends most of her time with either a bag over her head or suspended in a position that screams BDSM porno, you know just how out of touch things have become.
Taken 2 is standard action sequel nonsense - there's enough gun battles, car chases, and hand-to-hand combat to satisfy moviegoers looking only for escapism. But for those desiring a deeper story or even a couple of surprises, there's none to be found in the blasé explosions or the myriad of men that Neeson seems to so easily dispense. In many ways, Taken 2 assumes too much and takes no risks along the way, never seeming to find itself and proving that sequels have to increase the tension and action for them to not be compared to their originals. For a film which such a deep and talented cast, it’s a wasted effort. Taken 2 is rated PG-13 and has a runtime of 91 minutes.
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