Title: Taken 2
Director: Olivier Megaton (‘Transporter 3’)
Starring: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace and Rad Sherbedgia (‘Batman Begins’)
Featuring suspenseful fighting sequences set against a social commentary depicting how foreigners are taken advantage of by kidnappers and human traffickers is an intriguing idea for an action crime thriller. That was certainly the case with the surprise 2008 hit French film ‘Taken,’ which also helped proved the vitality of its lead actor, Liam Neeson, as an action star. Unfortunately, while he gave another captivating performance in the film’s new sequel, ‘Taken 2,’ new series director Olivier Megaton failed to create an original, distinctive story.
‘Taken 2’ follows retired CIA operative Byran Mills (Neeson) as he and his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), and ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen), are still struggling to adjust to their everyday life in Los Angeles. Kim is determined to prove to her parents that while she’s still coping with the aftermath of being kidnapped in Paris approximately a year before in the action crime drama’s predecessor, she still wants to move on. After Lenore has a fight with her husband, Stuart, she and Kim decide to meet Byran in Istanbul for vacation after he finished a job there.
While in Istanbul, Murad Hoxha (Rad Sherbedgia), the father of one of the kidnappers Bryan killed in Paris, Marko, takes the former CIA agent and Lenore to get justice for his son. Wanting to save himself and Lenore, as well as protect Kim from getting kidnapped again, Bryan once again uses his skills he learned from the government agency. He makes it his mission to stop the gang lord and his men from doing any more harm to his family.
After the surprise theatrical and home video success of ‘Taken,’ the film’s studio, EuropaCorp, not surprisingly wanted to further capitalize on the resurgence of Neeson’s action star status. Like in its predecessor, Neeson once again convincingly portrayed the determined retired CIA operative, who would kill anyone who got in his way of protecting his family. The actor also skillfully perfected the action sequences through the streets of Istanbul, including the intense car chases with, and shooting at, Murad’s men, and was always thinking of his next movies in order to defeat his enemies. While at times it seems implausible that one man could defeat an entire gang of kidnappers by himself, Neeson’s surging adrenaline and emotions kept him motivated to stop the men who wanted to carry out their revenge on him.
While Neeson once again emotionally connected with Bryan’s motivations of protecting his family from the continued horror that began with Kim’s kidnapping, the sequel’s story doesn’t feel as dismal and gut-wrenching as the first film’s plot. While getting kidnapped by international gangsters determined to obtain revenge is obviously tragic, ‘Taken 2’ doesn’t show the horrors of crime against the innocent and humanity as elegantly. The kidnappings in the sequel are a result of Bryan’s actions in the first film, which people could more easily relate to. Kim’s naivety and undoubting trust in strangers in ‘Taken’ is something many people have while traveling abroad, making the events more relatable and realistic to many people, particularly young adults.
After seeing Bryan single-handedly defeat the men who kidnapped his daughter in ‘Taken,’ the premise of the Mills being kidnapped again in Europe in ‘Taken 2’ unfortunately made the sequel’s plot predictable. Knowing Bryan had the physical capabilities to defeat the kidnappers in Paris made it plausible that he would be able to do it again in Istanbul. The action sequences between Bryan and Murad’s men at times felt recycled from the first film. Scribes Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, who co-wrote both movies together, just put Bryan in a new European city, fighting gangsters related to the kidnappers in the original film, seemingly thinking the plot could work well again with a few changes. ‘Taken 2’ would have worked better if Bryan used his life-saving skills to protect anyone outside his immediate family in an entirely different kidnapping situation.
‘Taken 2,’ which strived to capitalize on the combined success of Neeson’s emotional portrayal of Bryan’s protectiveness of his family and his skilled proficiency in fighting, unfortunately failed to live up to live up to its predecessor. While Neeson gave a brilliant performance, set against a compelling story filled with social commentary on how Americans are viewed around the world in ‘Taken,’ his repeated admirable turn as Bryan in the sequel failed to help differentiate the all-too-similar plot. ‘Taken 2’ didn’t focus enough on the psychological aftermath of Kim’s kidnapping in Paris, and concentrated too heavily on her father’s all-to-familiar fighting.
Written by: Karen Benardello