Then about four months later it opened in the US in a cut form and was a massive box office success. This release coincided with the UK DVD release so people kind of re-appraised the film and it became a minor success on DVD over here. The sequel released last autumn was an equally massive success but the critical disappointment baffles me. People seemed to be genuinely disappointed that the sequel was not as ‘good’ as the first film like the first was some kind of masterpiece.
At best the first Taken film was a diverting piece of violence for a Friday night and not the pinnacle of modern action cinema it seems to be held up as. Let us not forget that Taken and its sequel are products off the never-ending Europa Corp production belt from Luc Besson that has also given us Colombiana, From Paris with Love and The Transporter sequels.
The second film is something of a re-tread of the first with a few critical differences. Brian Mills (Liam Neeson) is still living in LA as a dad trying to bond with his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) and teaching her to drive whilst dealing with his over-protective issues. Mills takes the odd job with the CIA still and seems like he is on the precipice of reconciling with his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen). He is called away to Turkey on a two-day mission and invites the ex and his daughter over to join him for a break. Meanwhile some mercenaries who are employed by the families of the thirty or so Albanian’s that Mills killed in the first movie, plot to kidnap the family and bring them back to Albania to face justice.
Director Olivier Megaton who ruined the Transporter franchise, here works his magic on the Taken series. To be fair though, it’s not all his fault. The screenplay is pretty by the numbers although at certain times it threatens to have more weight than the first film. This is really prevalent in this extended version on the Blu-Ray which has scenes involving Rade Sherbedgia’s bereaved and vengeful father who is an actual character in a series that has thus far favoured the slaughter of faceless foreigners. There is a scene between him and Neeson towards the end which threatens actual gravitas and emotion before settling back into death and mayhem.
Apart from this the screenplay is all kinds of dumb resulting in two especially laughable scenes. The first involves Neeson turning up to pick up Maggie Grace for a driving lesson only to find out she forgot and is at her boyfriend’s house. This results in (no word of a lie) Neeson doing the worst wobbly lipped, Joey Tribbiani doing a hard sum scene of acting on a doorstep I have ever seen. This man was in Schindler’s List for God’s sake!
The second is the much celebrated grenade throwing shenanigans where Grace throws grenades around Istanbul causing unnecessary destruction and mayhem just so Neeson can figure out where he is through a chimney. She doesn’t just set them off either, she throws them under parked cars and all sorts. Despite having all the tools, Megaton can’t direct action scenes very well, choosing odd ways of editing that cause confusion instead of exhilaration. During fight scenes for example he will choose to cut to a camera overhead looking down some fifteen feet in the air for no apparent reason. Potentially exciting scenes are rendered inert by his odd and off-putting decisions like this. A seemingly tense and destructive car chase just happens and you barely care which is unforgivable in a film like this.
If you like your action mindless, inconsequential and ‘fun’ then this will do the job. For anyone else who saw the first film for what it really was this is just more of the same.