Too often, success of a sequel is not guaranteed by the success of its predecessor. Such is the case with Taken 2. With such a talented cast, one would hope for something better, but silly situations, ludicrous dialogue and an asinine story make Taken 2, starring Liam Neeson more of a joke than entertainment. Admittedly, I found Taken far more entertaining than I expected, but its follow-up film is just plain dumb.
We meet retired CIA operative, a man with mean super-spy and combat skills, Bryan Mills (Neeson) again. In his retirement, Mills works at a carwash (weird), teaches his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace) to drive and plays best friend to his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen), but all is not glitter. The families of the men he slaughtered – after they kidnap Kim and he uncovers a young girl slave trade operation in the first film – now want him dead and his little family too. Unknowingly, he sets himself and his family up, by inviting them to Istanbul where he has a brief security job. In short shrift, the bad guys capture him and Lenore, and Kim finds herself fighting to save her parents.
To say that what ensues is absurd, by any account, is an understatement. Writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen seem to leap from realism (beyond the normally acceptable) like a freight train from the track, causing a ridiculous pileup of idiotic scenarios filled with dreadful dialogue and outrageous and implausible foot and car chases. I could probably type several pages describing the inconsistencies and ridiculous details in the movie, like how Kim manages to find a hotel maid’s locker with a full outfit – jeans, tennis shoes and under and over shirt – just her size, or how the girl out runs men with guns across uneven rooftops, leaping like a superhero from on to another. And poor, typically talented Janssen; her character, Lenore, spends most of the time tied up, or being dragged moaning, occasionally screaming or lying unconscious – BUT always looking beautiful.
I will give director Olivier Megaton a little credit for managing to infuse some suspense and intensity, but unfortunately, these attributes come from the dramatic irony of knowing what will happen next (and in the end) and the anxiety created by painfully dragging out the inevitable. Ultimately, the entire foundation, on which the film is built, goes preposterously far beyond absurd and asks the audience to accept idiocy perched on the premise that a father (whose son, by any definition was heartless scum), would be so ruthless and bitter that he would go to ridiculous lengths to avenge his death. The apple not falling far from the tree comes to mind.
Neeson can’t be blamed for “taking” home a mega-huge-paycheck, for the R-rated Taken 2, and sadly, creators hint at a third film. I shudder at the thought, so when I consider (given current trends) that it could end up as Taken 3D, I cringe. It’s events like when Bryan, hands zip-tied to a steam pipe in a basement, manages to take a tiny cell phone out of his sock, move it up to near his head, call Kim and then direct her (using his special skill set) to his location. Or when Kim, who has not passed her driving test, races, with her father firing bullets out the window of a stolen standard-shift taxi, through the crowded, tight streets of Istanbul, careening into cars and carts and somehow manages to escape the bad guys. Speaking of Kim, emulating her dad’s mad skills, she chucks grenades into the city at random points – so her dad can pinpoint his location – without regard for what or whom she might hit and the authorities never seem to care. Geez!
I hadn’t expected to love Taken 2, but I hoped for a semblance of entertainment. Disappointing comes to mind. I tolerated the far shorter, first film with placid amusement, but cannot look past this second film’s utter asininity. It’s not 100% bad, but it is extremely close to being just that.