Taken 2 ***
Directed by Oliver Megaton
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen
BALLYMENA’S favourite son, Liam Neeson is back kicking all manner of Stereotypical cliché ass across Turkey as Bryan Mills, in Taken 2, certificate 12A. In 2008 Neeson first appeared on screen as the CIA operative for the first time, in the over the top, ultra-violent feature, Taken, launching the Northern Irish actor as a credible action-movie star.
Largely positive reviews and a strong performance at the box-office meant a sequel was always inevitable. Neeson himself, commented several times, on his surprise that the film proved was such a success, but had no problem returning to the role for a second time.
French Oliver Megaton took over directorial duties on the feature from Pierre Morel, with Luc Besson remaining as an executive producer on the project. This time around, the streets of Istanbul replace the original film’s Parisian setting, as Neeson’s character finds himself once again in need of his particular set of skills.
Mill’s along with his wife Lenore, played by American actress, Famke Janssen, are taken hostage while he is working in the Turkish capital as a bodyguard. They are held by the families of the human-traffickers, killed by Neeson’s character in Paris in the previous film. They are seeking revenge and hope to avenge the deaths of their sons and brothers, by killing Mills and his family.
In a twist from the original, Mills must rely on the help of his daughter to engineer his escape from his captors. Maggie Grace’s character Kim is still haunted by the events of the first feature, and trying to get on with her life back to normality. The young woman must overcome her initial fears to assist her parents.
It’s all run of the mill action movie stuff, with some well thought out little set pieces and a few solid action sequences. But the film’s biggest problem is real lack of violence, or threat of any violence, that was such a memorable part of the original.
The original was classified as a 15, later to be upgraded to an 18, upon its release on DVD. Taken 2 at only a 12A certificate has none of the gratuitous violence or the edgy tone of the original. It felt like producers had purposely toned the action down for younger viewers. The finished product leaves the sequel feeling far to tame, in comparison with its predecessor.
Despite this criticism the feature isn’t without its charm. Neeson holds the feature together competently, once again proving his competence as an action movie star, handling himself with relative ease, throughout.
Standout sequences in the feature include a high octane car chase through the streets of Istanbul as Mills’ and his daughter attempt to escape their captors and a sequence which bizarrely references Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2011 feature, Drive.
As Neeson walks through a darkened building, The Chromatics track, Tick of the Clock plays in the background. The tune was memorably used in the opening sequence of Refn’s cult classic. The sequence is stylishly done, but adds very little to the overall context of the feature.
Therein lies the biggest problem with the film, undoubtedly Megaton adds some nice visual touches and some interesting ideas, but they take away from what made the 2008 original such a success. Taken felt like an edgy exploitation movie, with its gratuitous use of over the top violence. Sadly theirs none of that on display here, the sequel just felt far to run of the mill and cliché ridden.
Taken 2 might not be dreadful, but it simply felt like a box-ticking exercise by the film’s producers. With a tenuous plot thread, leaving the possibility for a third outing for Mills’ skills, if the box-office returns prove to be strong enough, Taken 3 may just happen.
Review by William McClean