Taken 2 Review
Watch this and feel taken too.
Headed into this film I felt an unusual level of ennui not normally associated with Luc Besson or Liam Neeson films (for those of you who aren’t uptight pretentious intelligencia (or don’t dream of one day becoming one) ennui is “a feeling of utter weariness and discontent resulting from satiety or lack of interest”. In other words, I had a hard time giving a crap). It looked like another miserable retread of an otherwise decent film in an attempt to get another ounce of milk out of the cow that is we the movie going audience.
Fortunately for my personal self esteem regarding my almost psychic ability to predict the suck levels of movies, it was exactly that. I think it now fair to say that Luc Besson has problems with sequels. He is brilliant when he comes up with his original film ideas but like the Piers Anthony of the film world (special geek cred if you get that joke) he falls in love with his own characters and decides they need a sequel when honestly he should have just let them sit in splendor as the brilliant stand alone movies they are. Columbiana was a perfect example, as is this dog.
Thankfully for Luc (and unfortunately for us) there are legions of Hollywood executive types eager to beat any dead horse lying in the street and spread whatever foul ichor spews forth from it’s assorted orifices (orifi?) all over the screen (I am currently looking forward to seeing Citizen Kane II: Rosebud’s Revenge, Godfather Apocalypse, and E.T. the Extra Terrestrial Resurrection. You know it’s only a matter of time). This film is not necessarily as bad as that, but it in no way deserves to be associated with the original Taken (or, for that matter, does Taken deserve to have references to itself crowbarred into this film in every way shape and form).
However, like most issues in films the blame does not reside firmly in Luc’s lap but rather in the lap of the director, candidate-for-stupidest-name-ever Olivier Megaton (he takes his name from his birthday, which was the 20th anniversary of the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima. Why didn’t he just name himself Olivier Douchebag? Isn’t that about the same? I have a friend who was born on Christmas Day, but she didn’t rename herself Katherine Stigmata). I guess the director of Taken (Pierre Morel) was too talented for this film so they hired the guy who is best known for miserable flop Columbiana. His ham handed approach to action with a complete disregard for story is all over the inside of this film like a frog in a microwave.
As long as I am bitching about the direction I am going to take a moment to rail against an ugly trend in action movies that I have coined (and expect a royalty from all you other reviewers out there for) quick cut action sequencing. This is where in a fight scene rather than actually hire actors who can fight and a choreographer who can set up a scene they just film the actors throwing punches, rolling around together, and spitting fake blood and then edit the whole bundle into a series of 1/4 second or less fast shots that simulate action while letting you know nothing about what is actually going on. It is a horrible technique, and all who ascribe to it shall one day eat a turd in hell for movie blaspheme. However, what Megaton did was decide that this technique is so awesome at hiding his inability to direct that he was going to apply it not only to fight scenes but every gun fight and car chase as well. As soon as the action music starts rolling the film starts to look like you are trying to watch it through a kaleidoscope in a shockless car on a dirt road. Even the slow motion car explosion scenes are cut into 5-10 tiny little headache inducing cuts. It is a horrible technique and needs to stop.
Anyway, the story, for lack of a better term. It is now five years past the events of Taken, and ex CIA operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson-Taken, The Grey, Batman Begins) is still obsessively stalking his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace-Taken, Lockout, Lost), who in spite of being five years older than she was in the last movie (when she was 17) still doesn’t have her drivers license. There is some really pointless character development with his ex wife Lenore (Jean Grey from all the X-men movies. X-men image courtesy of the Comic Book T Shirt category) and the meeting of Kim’s boyfriend Jamie (Luke Grimes-Assassination of a High School President, Brothers and Sisters, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane) who as a face you just want to stick fists into. In spite of the fact that last time she traveled to a foreign country she was kidnapped and sold as a sex slave to an Arab sheik Kim is totally gung ho to fly to an Arabic country with her mom to hang out with her father (Darwin at work, I guess).
Meanwhile, all the relatives of the guys Bryan killed in the last movie are out for blood. The head guy is Murad Krasniqi (Rade Serbedzija-Batman Begins, Snatch, Mission Impossible II), the father of the guy Bryan electrocuted in the last one. They “take” Bryan and Lenore but now (careful or some of this amazing plot twist might get in your eye) it is Kim who manages to escape and rescue her dad (or at least deliver to him a gun). That’s pretty much it except for the shooting, driving, and bleeding. All the great investigative elements and the mad intensity that Liam Neeson brought to Taken are completely missing from this film, leaving the director with a huge gape that he either filled with more bad action or nothing.
The stars. I still like Liam Neeson, and while they kind of spread him too thin on this film like a tiny drop of grease trying to lubricate a giant engine, it was cool to see him as Bryan Mills again. One star. Maggie Grace is pretty hot, and they managed to contrive an excuse for her to run around in short shorts and a bikini top for an extended period of time. One star. That’s pretty much it. Two stars.
The black holes. This film comes with all varieties of plot holes, from marble sized all the way up to Indiana Jones crushing. One black hole. A tired, unimaginative retread in an attempt to draw bored idiots (like me) into the seats. One black hole. No story to speak of. One black hole. Quick cut action editing to drive you nuts. One black hole. If you hadn’t seen the first film you would have had no reason to remotely care about any of the characters in this one. One black hole. Total: five black holes.
A grand total of three black holes. I won’t say this movie is horrible. If all you want is action and you change channel on your TV every 1/4 second odds are you can enjoy this film. If you are a fan of the complexity and character behind Taken (as I am) prepare to be bitterly disappointed. They took the script from Taken and left in out in the sun too long. Date movie? Meh. Nothing in here will encourage your date to take off her clothes but on the other hand nothing will discourage it. The romance is tepid and tertiary at best. Bathroom break? Any time in the first 35 minutes will work fine. Once the action starts you might as well sit through it as it is the only thing in the film worth viewing. The film is a flaccid 91 minutes long, but if you really can’t hold it I’d say the scene where Kim is watching her cell phone do a 5 minute count down. Some action there but not a ton.
Thanks for reading. Plenty more to see this week, including Frankenweenie (why am I not excited to see this?), Hotel Transylvania (looks cute), Pitch Perfect (there’s never an incoming meteor when you really need one) and Trouble with the Curve (I will probably love this one. I have a thing for baseball movies). Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. If you have comments on this movie or my review feel free to post them here. Any off topic questions or suggestions can be emailed to me at email@example.com. Have a great Columbus Day. Talk to you soon.