By Chaz Lipp
The first Takenwas certainly no critic’s darling. I’ve never been able to figure out why it received so many harsh reviews. I thought it was one of the best meat-and-potatoes action thrillers of the past ten years. It certainly scored with the public, becoming a runaway hit in early 2008. The sequel brings back the original’s producer Luc Besson, who also once again co-wrote the screenplay with Robert Mark Kamen. Not only is Liam Neeson back as retired special agent Bryan Mills, Maggie Grace is back as his daughter, Kim, and Famke Janssen as his wife, Lenore.
So Hoxha orders his henchmen to take Bryan and Lenore captive. That’s when Taken 2 finally kicks into gear and for a while it’s pretty exciting. I can only imagine Maggie Grace’s reaction when she read the script, because this time around Kim gets to team up with her dad, taking an active part in the action. Janssen is far less fortunate, stuck with a damsel-in-distress role that requires absolutely nothing from the former Jean Grey (X-Men 1, 2, and 3). But this middle portion of the movie offers a pleasing, adrenaline-goosing throwback to the far more consistent thrills of the first film.
The real problem is that Taken 2 seems to end before it builds on the second act momentum. I can even forgive the implausible lapses in logic, such as Bryan giving insanely complicated directions to both his wife and daughter. He expects them to remember everything he says, even as they’re reeling from the realization that the events of a year ago have come back to haunt them. Plus there’s a sequence where Bryan simply leaves Lenore, nearly unconscious following her captors’ torture, in a highly unsafe location in order to ride with his daughter to the U.S. embassy. I don’t buy that someone as skilled as Bryan would risk something like that (and, of course, it allows the bad guys to once again get the upper hand).
I recommend skipping Taken 2 in theaters. This is a rental, at best. The first Taken was an awesome thrill ride, featuring a tremendous performance by Neeson. The new one was crafted on autopilot, unfortunately. It seems that the filmmakers’ M.O. was to make sure this one was just “good enough,” but they managed to fail even at that modest goal.