Liam Neeson is back in his iconic role as former CIA agent Bryan Mills in the sequel to 2008’s action thriller, “Taken.” For those who haven’t seen the original, this review will be be simple. Don’t see this movie. Watch the first one.
“Taken 2” takes place an undetermined amount of time after the first film. Without revealing too much, the basic plot is fairly simple. While Bryan continues to work on building a relationship with his daughter, her mother, his ex-wife, begins to confide in him more as her marriage falls apart. At the same time, the families of all the men who Bryan killed in “Taken” meet at his victim’s funeral. The father of one of the main gangsters rallies the people and vows that Bryan will die by the gangster’s hands in order to pay for the deaths of their loved ones. The viewer jumps back and forth between these two groups until the scenes converge, and the action is on.
Unfortunately, fans of the first film know exactly what comes next. This movie suffers from some serious predictability because it holds so strongly to a formulaic presentation. Not only does it conform to the patterns and tropes of modern action movies, but it also takes the essence of “Taken” and tries to do it again, but even bigger. Gadgets, car chases, foot chases, gun fights and fist fights all return for the sequel, but something is not quite right. The car chases are much longer and more fantastic, and let’s not forget all the explosions this time around. The hand-to-hand and gun combat sequences trade in Bryan’s precisely calculated and always-prepared style for a more showy and grandiose display. Not only is the action more over the top, but the cinematography also tries to up the ante even more.
Rather than show action scenes with plenty of room to see everything, the director opted for close-up shaky-cam effects with shots that last less than a second at times. This technique does give the scene more energy, but it does so in a disorienting and confusing way because the viewer can’t tell who’s punching whom or which car just smashed into what other car.
The film does some things well. One scene gives the viewer an interesting glance into the mind of a hyper-perceptive protagonist as Bryan tracks his location without seeing where he is going.
Ultimately, the most interesting part of the film is the examination of the nature of revenge as opposed to justice. Likewise, few action movies give any thought to the idea of the villains being more than simple bad guys. This movie takes a moment to consider how their lives and families have been impacted by the events of the movies. Unfortunately, both of these bright spots fade away.
Almost everything that “Taken 2” does well is done better by the original. The sequel misses the suspense and ferocity of the first.
Rating:2 out of 5 stars