Taken 2
The Man with Skills is Back

Released on January 30, 2009, the original Taken was a blockbuster at the time of the year when there aren’t supposed to be blockbusters.  Historically, January and February are the least successful months at the box office, but for some reason the revenge thriller transcended that.  It’s not that the plot was that original, but there was something about Liam Neeson as a vengeful father that just clicked with audiences.  It was probably inevitable, then, that a sequel would not be far behind.  But while Taken 2 does succeed as a moderately entertaining thriller, it lacks the punch of the original.

A few years after he rescued his daughter from her kidnappers, ex-CIA agent Bryan Mills has resumed his career as a security coordinator for the world’s elite.  He also cherishes his bi-weekly visits with his daughter, Kim, whom he is teaching to drive.  When he learns that his ex-wife and her new husband are having difficulties, he invites her and Kim to Istanbul where he has just finished a job.  They aren’t the only ones who come to visit, however, as the loved ones of the kidnappers he tortured and killed in rescuing his daughter come seeking their own vengeance.

Neeson as Mills in Taken 2In a twist, Mills himself gets “taken”, along with his wife, and his daughter must come to the rescue.  She may not have his skill set, but she does a good job with him guiding her along using a cell phone he had hidden on his person.  But it just wouldn’t be a proper Taken movie if the audience didn’t get to see Liam Neeson do his thing and the final act of the movie focuses on the no-nonsense Mills once again going after the mob.

Aside from one really awkward line reading at the very end of the movie, Liam Neeson is again on the top of his game as Bryan Mills.  The actor is extremely believable as the guy with a “very particular set of skills” and he definitely comes across as a guy that you just don’t want to wrong.  Still, the don’t-[mess]-with-Liam-Neeson vibe that was so strong in the first film is lessened somewhat here because we have already seen it.  He also does a lot less threatening and interrogating in this movie, spending more of it simply going from room to room shooting bad guys.

The script also repeats several key lines of dialogue from the first movie.  They are supposed to be clever nods to the first film, but instead the lines—which probably should have come off as cheesy in the first movie, but somehow worked—are really cheesy when repeated and drew unintended laughs from the preview audience.

Speaking of nods to other films, having Maggie Grace, as Kim, sit at the steering wheel with eyes on a ticking clock while “Tick of the Clock” by the Chromatics plays on the soundtrack was a little too familiar.  It’s obviously a reference to the opening of Drive, but since that movie came out only a year ago it feels more like blatant stealing than homage.

That choice is easily forgiven, however, because the car chase that immediately follows is easily the best sequence in the movie.  Although it may be difficult to believe that a young woman who has failed her driver’s test twice could so rapidly navigate the tight streets of Istanbul, there is no denying that there is more excitement in this sequence than the rest of the movie.

That’s ultimately the problem with Taken 2.  It fails to raise the stakes from the original and provide as much excitement.  Also, following that chase scene, the movie just spirals downhill towards an underwhelming ending.  Moderately entertaining, yes, but just doesn’t quite live up to the original.

Taken 2 is rated PG-13 for “intense sequences of violence and action, and some sensuality.”  There are a lot of gunshots, fistfights, and dead bodies, but surprisingly the blood and guts is relatively absent.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Taken 2.