Review – Taken 2

Spoilers given away here. As in, stuff that happens midway. So not really spoilers.

Review – Taken 2

2012, 92 mins, 12A, Dir. Olivier Megaton, starring Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen and Maggie Grace

Taken 2

Taken came out in 2008 and was a surprisingly enjoyable bout of Liam Neeson kicking, punching, shooting and stabbing anyone who stopped him from getting to his daughter, kidnapped by Albanian traffickers. Now that the sequel has arrived we should be expecting, as is the tradition with Hollywood, more of the same. And yet Taken 2, at least at times, acts like an odd parody of itself and its predecessor. And it is all down to the script.

So, a couple of years after the original (presumably) the family situation has changed somewhat; Bryman Mills’ (Neeson) former wife has separated again and his daughter has a boyfriend – you can see where this is going. After finishing a job in Istanbul he is surprised to see both of them meeting him at the hotel; but relatives of those killed in the last film are assembling and are preparing to take a hit on him and his family. Cue fist fights, stressful phone conversations, threats, and a car chase that logically would not work considering the young female driver can’t even pass a test in a manual car.

What the first film suffered from was the composition of its early sequences – Neeson trying to get to grips with the wants of his family but the resulting drama feeling very scripted and forced. Taken 2, on the other hand, starts promisingly. I thought that the early scenes which caught back up with the cast members were inspired and really well-played. Of course, when we transition to Istanbul, everything goes haywire, both in the literal and figurative sense. There’s nothing wrong with the kicking, punching, shooting and stabbing that’s on display (it is toned down to get a 12A rating), but the script is certainly problematic. Once Neeson is actually taken himself by these arrogant Albanians he communicates with his daughter from within his prison cell. Among the first lines of screenwriting genius after asking her to hide include, ‘Is it safe for you to get out of the closet?’ which was met with widespread laughter across the Leicester Square Odeon (the free beer might have had something to do with that, but still). Neeson’s ploy is for his daughter to throw grenades out of the window so he can ascertain how far away she is from him. It’s utterly ridiculous and really undermines the gritty edge of the original.

And it doesn’t stop there.  After the cold, motivated demeanour of the Neeson in the first film, the sequel maintains his stony face during most of the film but is just not served by the script, resulting in what can only be described as a bit of a mess. His lines are suddenly, and unintentionally, funny. It was like watching a particularly funny scene in Ricky Gervais’ mediocre Life’s Too Short in which Neeson himself grunts with a straight face that he wants to be a stand up comic. On repeat. Any attempt to stay serious in the final few scenes, which is desperately what it needs, is seriously in vain.

If you dumb down your senses then Taken 2 is probably going to be a lot of fun. But no matter how much you ignore its plot holes, you cannot ignore its dialogue. That’s not to say I really didn’t enjoy the film. I did in fact, like many of my fellow audience members, find humour where there shouldn’t have been any, but that doesn’t make it good in any sense of the word.

4/10

Leicester Square is finally a square again!

In the past few weeks I’ve been under the plague of an unstoppable force that extends across the breadth of the United Kingdom. That force is… EXAMS! That’s right, I’ve been sailing/storming/stalling through my GCSEs which will explain the lack of recent material on here. I’m working on it. Soon for the pleasure of your eyes you will be able to read about my exploits at an Indiana Jones marathon, perhaps indulge in my idea of a ‘classic movie’ (I haven’t done one of those in ages) or anything else which I see fit to post.

What I’m going to talk about now, however, is that place in London known as Leicester Square, home to about a thousand different cinemas and a pleasant, though small, greenery area. Well, that’s what it was like, until some educated chaps decided to board up the entire place for maintenance, turning what was previously known as a ‘square’ into an awkwardly-shaped cigarette smoke-laden mosh pit, forcing distributors to hold their premieres elsewhere (which nonetheless resulted in a truly memorable sight of Trafalgar Square populated by obsessed hormonal teenagers for the final Harry Potter). Having only discovered the Empire’s gargantuan Screen 1 and the cult delight of the Prince Charles Cinema relatively recently, I have more memories of being caught up in a cramped myriad of tourists, businessmen and cinemagoers than the original square itself. It will come as no surprise, therefore, that when I heard Leicester Square was re-opening this weekend, I hiked over as soon as I could.

Well, sort of a square.

Did my frenzied excitement pay off? Well, to an extent, yes. It was nice to be able to breathe for once whilst in the area and the trees looked very nice. But to my mind the construction workers that had halted movement for months didn’t really seem to, well… do much. There was the added addition of several vertical jet fountains which lapped around noisily, and a distracting tent feature, but were they necessary? Everyone who walked through the square seemed to do so without the slightest inkling that anything had occurred. Perhaps it’s my fractured memories of the old square fading ‘like tears in rain’ – rocking the Blade Runner reference there – but there seemed to be no developments which were really needed beforehand.

Yay. Fountains.

Never mind. I did enjoy some of the events that were going on, despite the fact that barely anyone was there. The renowned stuntman Vic Armstrong gave a very entertaining interview, talking about his escapades in doubling for Bond, Indiana Jones, Superman and countless other film characters. After that, two Empire Magazine reviewers, Ian Nathan and Ian Freer, gave a fascinating insight into their jobs in ‘Life of a Film Critic’, which included their hilarious revelation of “the better the sandwiches at a press screening, the worse the film”, as well as a trailer for the upcoming Hobbit movie. You can tell why that would appeal to me…

Vic Armstrong – one of the greatest stuntmen of all time.
Ian Nathan and Ian Freer

So, yes, it was a fun and dehydrating experience overall, and thankfully the London tube trains weren’t too exhaustive. I’ll be back in Leicester Square in a couple of weeks for the Indy Marathon (which thankfully excludes the fourth film) at the Prince Charles Cinema. In conclusion I have to say that despite my reservations with some of the developments it is truly fantastic for the square to be back, and I look forward to basking in its warmth in the years of cinemagoing to come.

No more barriers!

P.S. I have a new camera. Click on the images, they grow so much larger, it’s incredible…