The biggest misconception about sequels is that they think they need to be bigger. They think they need bigger explosions, bigger chases, bigger emotions! While that might an ad campaign, odds are it’s just going to bloat the movie like a water balloon, because it fills up on the same style and themes of its predecessor until it’s ready to burst. Generally speaking, style and theme don’t carry over well into something bigger because they already had a good fit where they were. That’s why they were so successful in the first place. The original “Taken” was a solid movie built on the idea of the overprotective Dad cliche taken to its most logical extreme of him not only being right, but also having the necessary skills (acquired over a long career that make him a nightmare for people like you) to save the day. If Liam Neeson weren’t there to ground the movie and give it a sense of legitimacy this could have been a Schwarzenegger vehicle in the 90s. Rather than stray from guaranteed formula, now we have “Taken 2,” a movie seemingly bigger than its predecessor, with more action, emotion and intense phone calling. It violates almost every action movie cliche, undercutting the intent of the first one; close encounter fights that look like they’re out of a special forces guide book meshed with the stylization and mild xenophobia (i.e. beating up foreign looking people and frenchmen) of Hollywood. Even if this movie was trying to break from the last one, the fact that it still brings over every aesthetic choice shows just how lazy it was being. It plays more like an episode of “24” than the kidnapping conspiracy the first one offered.
Bryan Mills (Oskar Schindler) is your run of the mill, ex-CIA agent Dad, just wanting what’s best for his daughter and who is still constantly perplexed that a teenager might not be able to keep to rigid scheduling. After having been proven completely right for being an overprotective father, everyone has decided to take his paranoia and sociopathic tendencies with a big, “Oh you!” smile even as he continues to invade everyone’s privacy for the sake of their protection. I swear if this movie were actually trying I would think this was all a giant metaphor for the U.S. government post 9/11. Mills decides to go to Istanbul. Why Istanbul? Because tax incentives for movie makers… I mean Neeson had a job we didn’t get to see as some rich dude’s body guard. It’s apparently supposed to carry over from the first movie that he’s a badass so that we can take some time here to do nothing. Okay, maybe not nothing since his ex-wife and daughter show up to almost immediately get TAKEN. Taken by whom? The family of those Albanian middle men from the first movie.
To its credit, this movie does get one thing right. The hand to hand fights between Neeson and whoever’s in his way are just as well choreographed as last time, even if the cameraman forgets his epilepsy medication a couple of times. Of course that’s immediately overshadowed by what the movie does wrong, which is practically everything else. A couple of minor things first were some characters ranging from bad decision makers to completely incompetent for the plot’s sake, and the occasional bout of “English for the audience’s sake.” What’s really riling about this movie though is just how boring it is. It starts with how super-human Neeson has become between movies, and just how weak the bad guys are in comparison. Seriously, I don’t think they ever even said the main bad guys name, and if they did it wasn’t loud enough or repeated enough that I could remember it. Before he was using some semblance of detective work to figure out a solution, but here he’s just destroying things one after the other until he’s decided his plan worked (oh my god I think this movie might actually be a metaphor for the U.S. post 9/11). What really sunk this movie is the fact that there isn’t any mystery to it. Before it was a group of unknown men kidnapping his daughter for unknown reasons and taking her to places unknown. Here, everything’s laid out in the first five minutes like a short string of dominoes. The problem is, dominoes require intricacy to be entertaining. This movie practically abandons all semblance of a plot by the twenty minute mark in favor of playing out every action movie cliche on the books. Remember that movies carry over the themes of their predecessors. As pretentious as that sounds, this is a movie following up a grand kidnapping conspiracy which threads together different nations, peoples, and backgrounds which is slowly disassembled by a disgruntled Dad. That might be overselling the intelligence of the movie a bit, but that just goes to show how little this one has in comparison. The fact that it’s running on the very cliches that the last movie tried to avoid shows just how disjointed it really is. The last movie took place over three days, allowing everything to spread out with moderate pacing that could speed up or slow down when the story demanded it. A man tied to a chair with power cables attached to him warrants that. Here, everything that matters takes place all in one morning to mid-afternoon. The movie feels like it’s in a rush to get to the credits. There’s no time to slow down. There’s no time to actually care about what’s happening.
In summary there’s a weak villain, overpowered hero, paper-thin plot, and action that would require the former complaints be reversed before graduating to a solid movie. It could have been so much better too! The problem isn’t just that it’s a bad movie, this is a bad movie that had the potential for something better. There were vast conspiracies, tales of old governments toppled, and musicians on the cusp of breakdowns in the last movie. Here is tangible evidence of Hollywood producers learning all the wrong lessons from the success of a movie. It’d be nice if this movie was left to fall by the wayside and they learned a lesson more substantial.
Judge for yourself. TAKEN 2 is the Saturday Night Movie for 11.09.13. Here is the Trailer.
Or if you’re really loving this film grab it on Blu-Ray or DVD to own forever.