*** (out of 5)
October 5, 2012
Liam Neeson as BRYAN MILLS
Maggie Grace as KIM
Famke Janssen as LENORE
Rade Serbedzija as MURAD KRASNIQI
Directed by: Oliver Megaton
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Like much of the rest of the moviegoing public, I was blindsided by “Taken” when it became a surprise hit in January 2009. (That’s just taking us dumb Americans into account, considering it was released almost a full year earlier in Europe. And the folks across the pond already knew Liam Neeson was a movie star there, anyway.)
Even though Neeson had an already high-profile career by then, having pivotal roles in “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” and “Batman Begins,” it was “Taken” that proved he could headline a movie and kick a whole lotta ass.
As you’d expect with any international hit, a sequel wasn’t too far around the corner. Like many other sequels, “Taken 2” is a bit of a rehash of the original film, which has helped contribute to some of the lackluster reviews out there. However, I happily acknowledge that there are some interesting differences between this film and its predecessor, which gives it a bit of a fresh spin.
In “Taken 2,” we are introduced to Murad Krasniqi (Rade Serbedzija), the father of some of the men that Bryan Mills (Neeson) killed in the first film. In retaliation, Krasniqi targets Mills’ wife and daughter on a trip to Istanbul. Caught in the middle of another kidnapping attack, Mills must find a way to help his wife escape and keep his daughter safe.
The biggest change in this film is that Mills’ daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) gets in on the action. The mother Lenore (Famke Janssen) is the one caught in this film, so Kim is able to come to her father’s aide. This makes the film a little less plausible but a little more fun. There’s a bit of a team effort with Mills and his daughter, as opposed to the relentless one-man pursuit we saw throughout the first film.
Also, “Taken 2” has a more limited focus. There was a sense of wonder (and not a small about of absurdity) in Bryan Mills tearing across Europe to find his daughter. In “Taken 2,” he’s limited to just a single city. But that allows things to move a little faster and to make the danger a little more intimate.
There’s other problems with the film, like Kim reverting to a whiny teenage girl (of what age, I can’t place because Maggie Grace is pushing 30 and her character still acts like she’s sixteen), but she was pretty whiny and clueless in the first film. It’s not a heavily characterized movie, but neither was the first, and it’s not necessary with a film like this.
I’m not here to convince anyone that “Taken 2” is a brilliant feat of filmmaking. It’s not. In essence, it’s just a soft-weekend action flick with a cathartic revenge plot. Just like the first movie.
“Taken 2” was exactly what I expected and wanted from the experience. It has the similar action elements, gunplay and fighting, and it’s fun to watch this imposing 60-year-old kick butt.