Taken 2 (2012)
If it worked once already, why not just do it all again irrespective of logic and statistical likelihood? Thus, in Taken 2 Ex-CIA operative (and mail order catalogue) Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is struggling to come to terms with his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) growing up and his relationship with his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen). If life wasn't complicated enough with being a Dad, Bryan finds himself up against a vengeful Albanian gang. It would appear that they're somewhat annoyed that he slaughtered their brethren in the previous instalment. Hence Bryan and Lenore are kidnapped whilst on vacation in Istanbul and face a grim death at the hands of the gang's patriarch, Murad Hoxha (Rade Šerbedžija). Once again, the criminal fraternity underestimates the resourcefulness of Mr. Mills and it is not long before the tables are turned.
Taken 2 is a tonally odd movie. It bookends the action content with what feels like a quasi-soap opera. A sort of "Life with the Mills family", where Bryan blunders through every stereotype about being a modern Dad. Again, there are plot holes a mile wide along with a total disregard for the laws of sovereign nations. It would appear that running gun battles, car chases and the use of hand grenades are not a big deal in Turkey, just like they weren't in Paris in the first movie. In this alternative universe, people also recover very quickly from traumatic, life altering events such as kidnapping, a near fatal wound and both physical and psychological torture. "Oh, those pesky Albanian gangsters really are a nuisance. Who wants an ice cream?"
Yet despite the complete stupidity of virtually every aspect of Taken 2, it still manages to shrug off all these criticisms and play a lone trump card that saves it. Yes, Liam Neeson manages to carry Taken 2, by the sheer force of his personality, irrespective of the ludicrous dialogue, crass narrative and total lack of internal logic. I don't quite know how to define it, but Mr. Neeson has a quality about him that somehow cancels out all these negative points. He commands the viewers’ attention by being a sort of alpha male, “pater familias”, sexy old death machine. A real achievement for a sixty-year-old man (at the time of filming).
There is a paradox regarding the action sequences in Taken 2. There are some very interesting techniques used, but they are somewhat difficult to discern due to the lightning editing. There is a telescopic baton fight of note and a climatic hand-to-hand battle that is very impressive. Again, I can only recommend the unrated version of the film. The theatrical version was reduced in content to obtain lower ratings on both sides of the Atlantic. Unlike the perfunctory nature of US action movies, there is a noticeable cruel streak running through Taken 2. Some may find this unpalatable. The torture of Lenore focuses very much upon her psychological suffering as the villain brandishes the instruments, he intends to use upon her.
Critics lined up to pour scorn on Taken 2 upon release. Director Olivier Megaton was quickly accused of being the French McG. The film certainly is quite spectacularly preposterous, yet still manages to entertain with it's interesting locations and the towering presence of Liam Neeson. Plus, any movie that advocates locating people by using a map, a bootlace, a pen and several hand grenades deserves some credit. So, I do not feel disposed to join others in beating of this particular cinematic piñata. We all choose to adopt some waif and stray or lost cause at some point. Taken 2 is mine.