In early 2009, Taken was an unexpected smash hit that gave Liam Neeson a second career as a badass action star. The film was a B-movie treat in which ex CIA agent Bryan (Neeson) used his “very particular set of skills” to retrieve kidnapped daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) from Albanian sex traffickers.
Taken‘s box office success has led to this sequel nearly four years later. Original director Pierre Morel is out and the awesomely named Olivier Megaton is behind the camera, but original screenwriters Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen return to pen the script. The concept is simple: instead of Kim being taken, this time it’s Mom – Lenore (Famke Janssen). Years after their divorce, Bryan and Lenore are starting to become a bit “taken” with each other again – if ya know what I mean. Mom and daughter join Bryan in Istanbul where he’s just finished a job and it’s not long before the father of one of the guy’s Bryan brutally offed in the original looks to exact revenge. He’s played by Rade Serbedziga, who gets to growl his way through dialogue about avenging his perv boy son’s death.
Much of Taken 2 simply feels by-the-numbers and the action isn’t as impressive as in the first. One problem is that Neeson doesn’t get to show off that particular set of skills enough. Too much of the pic is filled with lackluster car chases, though Neeson does involve Kim in the most intense driving demonstration since that high schooler drove Leslie Nielsen and John Houseman in The Naked Gun. The fact that Kim is dating her first boyfriend and taking her driving test for the third time involves some suspension of disbelief since the actress playing her is 30 years old. I’ll chalk that up to the rapid aging process due to her stressful first “vacation” in the original.
Truth be told, Taken 2 will hold your attention for its brisk 90 minutes, but this a prime example of an unnecessary sequel. The film even forecasts a potential third Taken towards the end. After all, these endless henchman Bryan is offing will always have vengeful relatives. How much “taking” can one family take? Taken 2 suggests stopping at one abduction probably would have been enough.
** (out of four)