The original Taken was pretty badass and a lot of that had to do with its leading man, Liam Neeson. He anchored that film and gave the audience a believable and earnest performance that allowed us to invest in his mission to save his kidnapped daughter. With each measured punch and deathly blow, we cheered and when it ended we clamored for more. The filmmakers heard our cries (or the studio saw how much money the first film made) and now we have Neeson back to do some damage in Taken 2.
The premise for Taken 2 doesn’t exactly scream “original idea” but I actually liked the reason that writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen came up with for the story to continue from the first film. More often than not, when we are watching these action films, we see our hero go up against a number of disposable bad guys. We watch as the hero dispatches them one by one in an entertaining fashion but we never think about those one-time thugs beyond the moment we see them get the crap beat out of them. Taken 2 goes back to those forgotten and now dead disposable bad guys and makes their deaths the genesis of this new chapter of the Taken franchise (can I call it that yet?). The father and family of those men now want revenge and will stop at nothing to make sure that Liam Neeson’s character dies a slow death. I know it’s not the first time that premise has been used but I like thinking that those disposable “henchman” that we all forgot about served a larger part to the overall story.
This time around the daughter (Maggie Grace) and the ex-wife (Famke Janssen) get more screen time, with the daughter even getting in on the action. The daughter’s action bits consist mainly of evading bad guys, throwing grenades (in a hilariously haphazard way) and driving the getaway car. All of the fighting and gunplay still rests with Liam Neeson’s character, Bryan Mills. With the fight choreography being my favorite aspect of the original film, I was hoping that the sequel would up the ante in that department. I have to say they didn’t quite live up to the original and that, while there was some decent hand-to-hand combat, those scenes were sometimes made unclear by the quick cutting employed by director Olivier Megaton and his editor. I wish Megaton had let those scenes breath a little more so I could relish each brutal hit. The film does offer one scene, in particular, towards the end where Neeson faces off against another (much shorter) man until they beat the crap out of each other that had me pretty satisfied. I felt that face-off showed a little more restraint editing-wise than some of the earlier scenes. Despite the fact that they didn’t quite better the original’s choreography, the action scenes are still entertaining and thrilling.
While there were definitely a few moments where I had to suspend my disbelief and the fact that the bad guys all seemed to be rather stupid, Taken 2 still manages to be a fun, albeit silly, continuation of the Taken story. The confrontation between Bryan Mills and the vengeful father at the very end seemed a little anti-climactic and I would have hoped for something that packed a little more punch for taking down the main bad guy. Still, Taken 2 never bored me and I was engaged for its entire 91 minute run time. As much as I’d love to see Liam Neeson beat the crap out of even more bad guys, I feel like the story should end here as a third Taken would just seem tremendously silly and start becoming easy joke fodder (Taken 3: Taken Again.. Dammit! or Taken 3: They Got My Dog). They do infer that there could be one or two sons left in this family that may want to seek revenge should the box office returns for this sequel be very good but let’s hope that they let Bryan Mills hang up his hat. We’ve been given two solid action films with the character (the first one still being superior) and I think that’s good enough. Taken 2 is worth checking out.
by Ben McBride