Taken 2 is the second outing for Liam Neeson’s ex CIA agent slash super dad Bryan Mills, a man last seen smashing Paris to bits in 2008’s fun, if slightly xenophobic, thriller Taken. This time, with another director at the helm, Mills and his particular set of skills are up against the seething family members of the gang he tore apart and their efforts to exact a terrible revenge on both him and his wife and daughter.
Unfortunately this new director, the wonderfully named Oliver Megaton, does not succeed in taking up his predecessor Pierre Morel’s mantel and his direction is as frustrating as it is bewildering. In a bid to secure a PG-13 rating Megaton (no doubt under heavy studio supervision) makes Taken 2 perhaps the least violent really violent film I have ever sat through.
Using the same trick Gary Ross did for The Hunger Games, Taken 2 illustrates its most brutal scenes in a choppy, extremely kinetic fashion in order to convey what’s happening in a lively way, but without lingering long enough to show anything too explicit to younger members of the audience. The Hunger Games just about got away with this technique but, sadly, Taken 2 falls very wide of the mark and distorts what is supposed to be a device that transports you right to the middle of a frenzied fight to the death into a migraine inducing mess, mostly spent trying to work out what on earth is happening. Is Bryan getting the upper hand? Or the other guy? Wait, who was that? It’s exhausting.
Even those who don’t crave broken bones or endless gore splattered across the silver screen will agree that taking away the teeth from a film like Taken 2, especially after having such an explosive and violent opening installment, makes this sequel feel like a rather castrated affair.
But, annoyingly, Megaton sticks with this style of direction throughout and chooses to choreograph all the film’s fight scenes in the same fashion, as well as reducing what could have been a spectacular car chase through Istanbul into looking like the efforts of a group of high school amateurs trying to recreate Drive on their iPhones.
Not all the blame can be laid at Megaton’s door, however, as the screenplay Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen provide him with is entirely without merit: full of clunky dialogue, shallow characterization, bad pacing (the first act seems to go on forever) and a baffling sense of logic in which it’s perfectly fine to go around bombing the hell out of the streets of Istanbul providing you are trying to pinpoint your parents’ whereabouts.
For all its flaws, Taken had a brilliant driving force through its time bomb narrative: a man must find his daughter within 72 hours or he will lose her forever. Taken 2 does not have a story even close to this, nor the much needed escalation sequels need in order to be successful (see The Dark Knight or The Godfather Part II) rendering it completely pointless.
The presence of Liam Neeson goes some way in making it half watchable, especially seeing as he plays Bryan Mills as if he were Lawrence Olivier in a Steven Segal film, but I found everything else way below par.
In fact, I wasn’t taken with it at all… (I’m here ’till Thursday.)
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