Taken 2 review


What I like about Taken is that it’s a bit like Com­mando. As we all know, Com­mando is one of the best movies ever made. To res­cue his daugh­ter, Arnie kills an army load of scum­bags with little regard for the con­sequences of his viol­ent actions. The film is say­ing, “If someone kid­naps your daugh­ter, it’s okay to kill three hun­dred people to get her back. The courts will not hold you to account. The presid­ing judge may even invite you over for sup­per and brandy and cigars to con­grat­u­late you per­son­ally for a job well done.”

Taken is a modern-day ver­sion of this charm­ing tale of extreme viol­ence in the pur­suit of one’s kid­napped off­spring. When I say “mod­ern ver­sion”, it’s mod­ern only in the sense that it’s less car­toon­ish and the viol­ence is nas­tier. The plot is sim­pler too. Where the deluded des­pot of Com­mando cooked up the ill-advised kidnap scheme to get Arnie to do his bid­ding (as if!), Taken is just the unsus­pect­ing bad guys nab­bing the daugh­ter of their worst nightmare.

Ulti­mately, whichever way both films start out, it’s about one thing. The hero is at point A. His daugh­ter is at point B. In-between those two points is where the scum­bags are. Point C is mis­sion suc­cess, smiles and high fives all round. Roll credits.

Com­mando has the good sense to end it there (with help from Arnie who, other than for a couple of his more iconic char­ac­ters, had some­thing of a no sequel policy back in the day). In John Matrix’s world, where revenge fantasy is very real, and accep­ted, he’s free to return to his log cabin in the moun­tains, where he can chop wood, feed deer, eat sand­wiches, and puzzle over the gender of the latest pop star. The story’s been told. Viol­ent retri­bu­tion on a massive scale is the true path to peace and enlightenment.

In an ideal world, Taken would have ended with the first movie as well. It came out of nowhere, and was a sur­prise hit, gross­ing over 200 mil­lion dol­lars world­wide on a mod­est 25 mil­lion dol­lar budget. The idea of Liam Neeson as an action hero was a fresh one for many people. His glower­ing pres­ence, com­bined with an eco­nom­ical plot focused like a laser beam, made for one of the best action movies in years.

A tough act to fol­low then, and I’m not deny­ing that a sequel with Neeson mer­ci­lessly punch­ing people in the face didn’t appeal. It did. But deep down, I knew it wouldn’t have the excite­ment of the first film.

That the sequel exists at all, takes away some of the shine of the first one. In that, there are no con­sequences to Neeson’s actions. It’s a massively enjoy­able, viol­ent, action fantasy, far removed from any sort of real­ity, and all the bet­ter for it. But in Taken 2, the friends and fam­ily of all the scum­bags that Neeson killed in the res­cue of his daugh­ter, are out for revenge. Turns out there are con­sequences after all!

Part of the delight of Taken was see­ing a vast crim­inal net­work com­pletely under­es­tim­ate the man hunt­ing down his daugh­ter. They were all, “Who the fuck is this Bryan Mills guy? He did what? Killed an entire build­ing full of gang­sters? And he’s called Bryan, you say?”

This time, it’s per­sonal. They have a plan. They’re gun­ning for him. They don’t even have to do their home­work to know that first time round, he dis­mantled their organ­isa­tion with his spe­cial set of skills. If any­thing, they should be over­es­tim­at­ing him, leav­ing noth­ing to chance.

But because they work on the same level of know­ledge and incom­pet­ence as in Taken, they seem less threat­en­ing than ever. They can’t even cap­ture his daugh­ter who runs across the rooftops of Istan­bul, lob­bing gren­ades into the street, so that her dad can work out from the speed of sound, how close she is to him.

Like that scene, most of the action is ludicrous, staged by dir­ector, Olivier Mega­ton, who seems to be pro­du­cer and writer Luc Besson’s go-to-guy when Louis Leter­rier is oth­er­wise engaged. He hails from the school of action dir­ect­ors where to make an action scene fast paced, the edit­ing must be fast paced too. Thus, Taken 2’s action ends up as not much more than a mess of frus­trat­ing, unex­cit­ing, flash­ing images that some­how don’t relate to the cut that comes before, and the cut that comes after.

Neeson says at one point, that he’s tired of it all. I believed him! Although I sup­pose it depends on how big the cheque is, if he finds a sud­den spring in his step for Taken 3. They’ve taken his daugh­ter. They’ve taken his wife. They’ve even taken him. What else can they take?

How about his self-respect if he signs on the dot­ted line?