Taken 2 (2012)

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 bretheren in the previous instalment. 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 insane movie. It bookends the action content of the movie with a quasi soap opera. A sort of “Life with the Mills family”, where Bryan blunders through every stereotype about being a modern Dad. 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 want’s an ice cream?”

Yet despite the complete stupidity of virtually every aspect of Taken 2, it still manages to shrug off all these criticism and play a lone trump card that saves it. Yes Liam Neeson by the sheer force of his personality manages to carry Taken 2, irrespective of the ludicrous dialogue, crass narrative and lack of internal logic. I don’t quite know how to define it, but Mr. Neeson has a quality about him that some how cancels out all these negative points. He commands the viewers attention by being  a sort of alpha male, pater familias, sex god, death machine. A real achievement for a sixty year old man.

There is a paradox  regarding the action sequences in Taken 2. There are some very interesting techniques used, but they are very difficult to discern due to the lightning editing.  There is a stick fight of note and a climatic hand-to-hand battle that is very impressive. Perhaps an unrated print of the movie will reveal more at a later date. The theatrical version has been reduced in content to obtain lower rating s on both sides of the Atlantic. Lenore’s torture sequence is noticeably coy and some of the fights seem incoherent, as if elements have been reduced. Hoxha’s death is a noticeable example. Yet despite this softening of content, the movie still has a very cruel streak running through it. Some may find this unpalatable.

Critics are already lining up to pour scorn on Taken 2. It would appear that director Olivier Megaton has already been accused of being the French McG. The film certainly is quite spectacularly bad, yet still manages to entertain with it’s interesting locations and the towering presence of Liam Neeson. Plus any movie that advocates locating people using a map, a bootlace  a pen and several hand grenades deserves some credit. So I do not feel disposed to join in the 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.

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