The success of Taken has given Liam Neeson a new lease on his career at a later age. Suddenly, a man better known for playing Oskar Schindler is suddenly fighting off sex traffickers, wolves and whatever else might come his way. Taken 2 obviously goes back to that well again, but whether that dip is as successful is another matter.
The action picks up almost immediately after the events of the previous film, as the audience sees the coffins of the men killed by Bryan Mills in his rescue of his daughter being taken back to their native Albania. As the families of the men mourn them, a group stands apart. They, led by the father (Rade Šerbedžija) of the original film’s kidnapper’s ringleader, vow to avenge themselves on Mills personally. Back in Los Angeles, Mills is being somewhat understandably overprotective of his daughter (Maggie Grace) who’s beginning to date seriously, while her mother, Lenore (Famke Janssen) is failing to keep her second marriage together. When Mills goes out to Istanbul for a security job, his daughter and ex-wife surprise him, just as the men from Albania begin to seriously pick up the scent. Soon enough, Mills and Lenore are cornered and taken, and Mills must find a way to free himself and his wife while protecting his daughter, and hopefully making sure that his family isn’t bothered again.
One has to admire the straightforward nature of the plot. It’s perfectly reasonable that the families of those killed in a previous action movie would want revenge in a situation like this, and there’s no reason not to use something like that as a motivator. Neeson is more than capable, physically, of pulling off his action sequences, even at his age, 60. He’s a big man, and that imposing size is put to good use. Grace is also good, if somewhat underused, as a daughter who’s trying to forget the traumatic events that happened to her. There are also some really effective action sequences that utilize some of the unique features of the city, which is remarkably underutilized as a setting for films despite its remarkable history.
There is, however, such a things as relying too much on a successful formula. Producer Luc Besson has made a career out of these types of action thrillers, and while they might be effective for some, Taken 2 is probably not the best example of the genre for the uninitiated. The dialogue is predictable and the plotting tired. The audience will likely know exactly what’s going to happen, even in the non-action sequences, from word-go. The villains, who could be interesting, are given less than short shrift, in terms of becoming characters. They become more-or-less props for Neeson to shoot, punch and kick around. Even the father character, who theoretically should have the meatiest story, is given virtually no time to develop it. While it’s understandable that the audience for a movie like this is interested primarily in action, other movies, like Haywire, have managed to provide a different take on the genre, while other films, like The Raid: Redemption, simply move their action sequences at warp-speed, compared to something like Taken. There’s even a couple elements from last years Drive, in the form of two soundtrack songs, but all this serves to remind the audience of how slow, predictable, and frankly, lame, Taken 2 is by comparison.
Fans of Neeson’s action work, and Besson’s style of action films, though, will probably love what they get from Taken 2. It’s a straightforward action piece that doesn’t aspire to much beyond that. Neeson remains physically formidable, and there are some worthy action sequences that get the blood racing. But there’s very little to recommend it to people who aren’t fans of the genre or of the previous film.