By Chaz Lipp

There are two ways to approach Taken 2, the sequel to the 2008 smash Taken. Expecting it to live up to the original will result in disappointment. Watching it as a brainless actioner that happens to feature the same main characters will yield better results. I thought the first one was a perfect example of the genre. Part two is simply a retread that’s missing the heart and excitement that made the first one such fun.

The opening act is as perfunctory as it gets. Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is going to Istanbul on business. His ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) is having troubles with her current husband. So he invites her and their daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), to join him. After what they went through in the first film (Kim being kidnapped and sold into sex slavery), you’d think Bryan’s family would want to avoid overseas travel. Once they all arrive in Istanbul, Bryan and Lenore are taken this time. The culprits? Murad (Rade Šerbedžija), the father of one of the baddies Bryan killed the first time around, and his henchmen.

Only Kim can help save her parents and luckily she’s game for the challenge of filling her father’s shoes. I guess in Istanbul, no one bats an eye when you start hurling hand grenades around, blowing up cars in the process. That’s exactly the kind of thing Bryan has his daughter doing in order to get his bearings when he and Lenore are tied up in an unknown location. The middle portion of the film, with Bryan and Kim working in tandem to escape Murad’s clutches, is actually pretty exciting. But Bryan’s disconcerting habit of abandoning Lenore, risking her life as she’s nearly unconscious for most of the film, is difficult to believe.

Unfortunately the cheap thrills don’t continue into the final act, which unwisely ditches the film’s strongest element (the daddy/daughter teamwork) in favor of mano-a-mano dullness. At just over 90 minutes, the film moves along quickly enough but with such an anti-climax it seems to end before it really has time to catch fire. Neeson is still magnetic as Mills, but his logic is a bit fuzzier this time around. Grace steps into her more action-oriented role with surprising verve. But I can only imagine what Janssen was thinking when she read the screenplay and realized her character, despite increased screen time, would be practically comatose in every scene.

The 1080p Blu-ray transfer looks outstanding. The cinematography (by Romain Lacourbas) has kind of a stylized look, with slightly oversaturated colors. The high definition presentation handles the look extremely well. The clarity is razor sharp throughout and the black levels are solid—great visuals all around. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix is darn good, too. It may not rock quite as hard as it could in the LFE department, but the explosions and car crashes still pack a punch. Dialogue, especially Neeson’s intense delivery, sounds full and resonant.

Special features are actually kind of a letdown. The unrated cut only runs about five minutes longer than the theatrical. Having seen both, I’m hard-pressed to even detail what’s different. The alternate ending is a lot more interesting, it basically picks up where Kim is in the cab with a five-minute timer going, waiting for her father to emerge from the building. In the theatrical, Bryan comes out alone and the car chase proceeds from there. In this alternate ending, he comes out accompanied by Lenore. Obviously this is a pretty major change and it effects how the movie’s climax plays out.
Don’t expect much from the five deleted scenes. They run about seven minutes and add nothing. The so-called “Black Ops Field Manual” is kind of lame. It’s basically a pop-up trivia track with a running killed and injured count at the top of the screen. “Sam’s Tools of the Trade” offers some information about the various items in Bryan’s briefcase. There’s also an FX Movie Channel interview with Liam Neeson that runs about five minutes and is nothing more than a fluffy promo piece.The Blu-ray combo pack includes a standard DVD and Digital Copy.
I have heard some talk of a possible Taken 3, which is understandable given the healthy box office returns of part two. But the basic idea needs a real reworking if it stands a chance of reinvigorating the franchise.

(Photos: 20th Century Fox)
Chaz Lipp

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