Title: Taken 2
Directed by Olivier Megaton
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Rade Serbedzija
Taken 2 follows the mantra of most action sequels by upping the ante and action, while rehashing enough of the first film to make it familiar. Also like most action sequels, it forgets what made the first one work so well, opting instead to overcomplicate it’s plot and kick up the serious side. It shouldn’t come as a surprise as Luc Besson has rarely made a sequel that lived up to the original (with Transporter 2 being the lone exception.)
What’s essentially displayed on screen is an episode of “CSI: Miami” starring Liam Neeson. Where David Caruso’s Horatio Caine would have crimes solved before the episode would begin and bark orders at everyone, Neeson’s instructed to follow that suit here. Even when his Bryan Mills is captured by Murad Kransniqi (Rade Serbedzija), he always feels in control. There’s never a sense of danger that the first film had.
One could argue this film is playing things very light, but if that’s the case, then certain character motives have to be questions. For instance, why would Bryan Mills take a job in or close to a country that he’s just wiped out most of their terrorist population? In addition, many of the character’s actions raise eyebrows as well (i.e. – Mills tends to leave his wife behind more than once when he should be carrying her with him. But then we have no movie, right?)
At the heart of all this is director Olivier Megaton, who most will remember for last year’s Colombiana disaster. Megaton’s biggest fault is he can’t shoot action. He wants it to be an over-stylized version of hand-held action, but it just doesn’t work. Megaton never allows his long shots to set up where we are, opting to keep it close, in hopes that we’ll be engaged. Pierre Morel didn’t break ground with the first Taken, but he at least established geography of where we were and who was shooting at whom.
That said, there are some moments that shine. Neeson of course is likable once more, even if it’s more because of his super serious posturing. You still want him to succeed, and when the action works, it is a joy to watch Neeson dispatch various, nameless villains. For as lackluster as the action is, there are some fun moments, particularly the final showdown with Neeson and Serbedzidja.
It’s just a same the entire movie couldn’t be as fun as the first film. Megaton definitely ramps up everything, but fails to understand that simplicity is why the first movie worked, and in effect was so successful. Taken 2 truly feels like a big missed opportunity, as it rarely works, even on an enjoyable level. Too stupid to be serious, too serious to be stupid, Taken 2 will be hard-pressed to find the crowd that made the first movie such a hit, especially when you have much more creative, better action films playing at the local megaplex.