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TAKEN 2 review

Posted on November 6th, 2012
Posted on November 6th, 2012

Article by: Coop Cooper

A.K.A. The Small Town Critic

Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) returns as the fastidious and obsessive freelance security expert who seems to have finally found an equilibrium between family and his dangerous work. Since rescuing his kidnapped daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), from Middle Eastern white slavers, Bryan continues to put all of his efforts into being a part of her life. Although he has been reconciling with his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen), Kim is avoiding him to spend time with her new boyfriend. When a low-risk job in Istanbul gives him some free vacation time, he invites Lenore and Kim to join him so they can finally bond. Unbeknownst to Bryan, the crime family he massacred to rescue his daughter in the first movie wants revenge. Once they track down Bryan in Istanbul, he must use his unique skill set to save both his family, and himself.

While this is a far-above-average action thriller, it doesn’t add much to the phenomenon that the original “Taken” sparked when it released in 2008. “Taken” surprised audiences with an unassuming deadbeat dad who suddenly reveals himself to be a James Bond-par spy who tracks down bad guys and kills without mercy when his daughter is kidnapped. The formula was sound and the execution was flawless. Liam Neeson won over even cynical critics (like me) who always thought he was an overrated, A-list dramatist.

This sequel leaves him nearly where he left off. Although his lonely, rich ex-wife has suddenly resumed interest in him since her millionaire husband left her cold, his daughter has grown more distant. She is clearly much older and now sexually active, but she somehow can’t seem to pass her driving test. Brian seems intent to butt into her life (and make-out sessions) to make sure she succeeds in getting that pesky license. She can’t hate him too much since he did save her life so it’s not too ridiculous when she and his ex-wife surprise him with a family rendezvous in the Middle East.

I hated the setup. This plot puts Mills on the defensive against a ragtag gypsy crime family lead by the always sleazy Eastern European character actor, Rade Serbezija, who never seems scary or competent enough to execute even a simple plan. Plus someone has to be kidnapped for the franchise to retain that “Taken” moniker, right? This time, the taken are Bryan Mills and his ex-wife. It’s a neat gimmick, one that has Bryan using a tiny spy-like cellphone to use his own daughter to help him get equipment, plant explosives and escape. It would’ve been great except in the end we have only a slightly reshuffled version of the original.

I would have preferred Mills to have taken on an assignment that did not directly involve his family. As it stands, it’s turning into a far-fetched “Die Hard” type scenario where the main characters constantly ask, “Why is this crazy stuff always happening to us?” Sooner or later, it’s going to burn out, and as of this film, I’d say the scenario already has. “Taken” was a fantastic flash in the pan but it was not the scenario that a franchise needed to be modeled from. It is the character of Mills that should initiate the direction of the story. No one needs to be “taken” necessarily, but I think the idea of a James Bond character having a family, struggling to keep one life separate from the other is a winning cinematic proposition. It was dealt with comedically in “True Lies” but “Taken” has the potential to keep it at a much more practical and gritty level.

If a member of his family, or anyone else for that matter, needs to be “taken” in every film, I think the filmmakers have missed the boat. As misguided as the sequel – almost a remake – was, it was tense, well-written and far better than most thrillers out there.

I can’t disparage it too much considering I begged for a sequel after giving the original “Taken” 5 out of 5 stars. I only hope Bryan Mills is given future assignments that raise the stakes without involving one of his family members (or himself) being “taken” once again. He might actually take Bond in a fight, so I’d like to see him tackle something a bit scarier than untrained, bearded bad guys who can’t seem to get the drop on a 60 year-old Irishman.

Rating: 3 & 1/2 out of 5

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