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 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.