‘Taken 2’ has plenty of action, still stumbles
Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 08:10
Liam Neeson has "a very particular set of skills" – skills that he has "acquired over a very long career."
No, I’m not talking about his acting chops; I’m talking about the assassination abilities he displays in "Taken 2."
I know what you’re thinking – "Taken 2," which opened at theaters nationwide Friday, was completely unnecessary. Neeson’s character, Bryan Mills, already saved his daughter, Kim, by taking out a small army of would-be human traffickers. He got all of the bad guys last time, right? Surely there’s no way he’d ever let Kim (Maggie Grace) go abroad again.
You’d be wrong on all counts, except for the necessity of the film. You probably won’t be seeing this film on anyone’s "definitive list" any time soon. But that doesn’t make it any less of an awesome display of badassery by Neeson.
If you haven’t seen the first "Taken," it’s important to know that in the last film, Mills (Neeson), a retired CIA operative, allows his daughter to travel to Paris with one of her friends. As young women traveling abroad are known to do, Kim and her friend are soon wooed by handsome, charming and accented locals.
Unfortunately, however, the men they meet are involved in the lucrative yet despicable business of human trafficking, and Kim and her friend are two of their latest catches. The rest of "Taken" focuses on Mills’ quest to get his daughter back by taking out one trafficker at a time.
Though four years have passed since the release of "Taken," the sequel picks up around the same time the last film left off. Those men Mills eliminated in the last film have very bitter families who are bent on revenge. They plan to take Mills and his entire family to make them pay for what he has done.
Meanwhile, Mills has begun to settle into a more peaceful life with his family, which causes abundant awkward dad moments, as Mills struggles to deal with his daughter’s new boyfriend.
In addition, Mills’ ex-wife, Lenore (played by a fantastic-looking Famke Janssen), seems to be headed for a divorce from her current husband, and Neeson comes back into her life at the perfect moment to pick up the pieces. He invites Lenore and Kim to join him in Istanbul where he will be working for a few days, and they agree to come along.
While in Istanbul, Mills’ enemies resurface, and they manage to capture Mills and Lenore. This time, Mills is able to talk Kim through the steps it takes to find him and her mother. While Kim manages to help her father escape, the two must leave Lenore behind.
"Taken 2" is purely and simply an action film, and there is much action to be found. All of the obligatory elements are present. There is a rooftop chase scene, grenade explosions, and plenty of gunfire. There is also a car chase scene that doubles as the world’s most intense driving lesson, as Kim is the vehicle’s operator and has yet to get her license.
The best bits of action are the ones in which Neeson is involved. His height and confidence make him such an imposing character that he seems to be just batting his adversaries away. The great thing about Neeson is although he is 60 years old, he isn’t afraid of physical combat. He doesn’t stop; he just rises off of the floor, bloody-fisted and looking for the next fight.
The acting in this film was not particularly moving or poignant. Neeson carries the entire film on his shoulders, and we’re lucky they’re broad enough to take it.
Normally, when you give something stars in a review, readers assume you’re giving those stars to the entire film – as an artwork or a piece of entertainment. But in this case, every single one of those stars belongs to Neeson, without whom – let’s face it – this film would have seemed like millions of dollars of wasted effort