Taken 2 had so much potential and plenty of goodwill after its amazing predecessor, however what we got instead was a lazy half-assed screenplay that simply did a find and replace combined with uninspiring direction. The main saving grace is that Liam Neeson once again gives it his all and really saves it from being a dud.
Genre(s): Action, Adventure
Fox | PG13/Unrated – 92/98 min. – $39.99 | January 15, 2013
Directed by: Olivier Megaton
Writer(s): Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen (characters), Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen (written by)
Cast: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Jansen, Rade Serbedzija, Leland Orser
Theatrical Release Date: October 5, 2012
Features: Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Alternate Ending, DVD Copy, Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 2
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.39
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Disc Size: 43.0 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 3.0/5
Note: This review contains spoilers about the plot.
Making a good sequel is a tricky thing and more often than not, they rarely succeed. Rather than going over the exceptions to the rule (i.e. The Godfather Part II, The Dark Knight), instead I’ll simply say Taken 2 is not dissimilar to 1988’s Ghostbusters 2, in which both films merely rearranged plot points and shuffled some characters around. Even more surprising is the same two writers – Luc Besson and Mark Kamen – were actually involved. I can only surmise that they came up with this “plot” over a weekend and called it good… well, passable.
The plot for Taken 2 this go around finds former Special Forces member Bryan Mills (LIAM NEESON) going about his daily routines including picking up daughter Kim (MAGGIE GRACE) for a driving lesson only to discover she’s dating a boy and at the same time, finds out ex-wife Lenore (FAMKE JANSSEN) is having marital problems. Being the overprotective father he is, he confronts Kim at the boyfriend’s house (side note: he looks sleazy) and eventually drives her home. Later, with Bryan set to do a simple protection job in Istanbul, he offers Lenore and Kim to spend a few days in the city for a little R&R and family time and eventually the pair arrives in Turkey to take up the offer.
Meanwhile, and when the movie began, we are introduced to our primary villain: Murad Krasniqi (RADE SHERBEDZIJA), the father of Marco, the man who initially had kidnapped Kim in the first movie and whom Bryan had tortured to get info on her whereabouts. Now, with the aid of his henchmen, he intends on avenging not only his son’s death but the son’s and fathers of the others Bryan had killed. Through his inexplicable intelligence network, Murad knows where Bryan is and also knows the mother and daughter are with him and intends on nabbing the three to exact his revenge. How does he know all of this? I guess it’s the same source where he can get an endless supply of thugs…
So, with the family in Istanbul, you have Bryan and Kim off on their own while Lenore rests back at the hotel and later, in a bid to play Cupid, Kim hangs behind for Bryan and Lenore to spend some quality time together. It’s during this that Murad strikes sending his thugs to kidnap Bryan and Lenore in the cramped streets and Kim at the hotel. The first part of the plan is pulled off, though not without some bloody resistance, but part two not so much as Bryan is able to warn Kim as she makes her escape before it’s too late.
At the hands of his captors, Bryan does manage to get a hold of a mini-phone he had hidden on his ankle (this is established earlier) and unable to get a hold of fellow Special Ops pal Sam (LELAND ORSER), he goes to the next best help: no, not his other two buddies but Kim, of course. After she’s able to elude and hide from the thugs, she’s guided to Bryan’s superspy kit and using some ingenuity, and grenades, is able to pinpoint where he is being held captive. Oh, and the one grenade leads to one of the most gratuitous explosion shots I’ve ever seen. Even for a movie like this, it’s overboard utterly absurd.
After following her father’s directions, and Bryan getting a lashing from the baddie (not to mention Lenore suffering a slow death), Kim manages to help her father escape as he gets a gun and begins dismantling the thugs one by one. Unfortunately in the chaos which includes police, only the two make it out with Lenore still in the hands of the bad guys. After an extensive and surprisingly ho-hum car chase, Kim is safe but Bryan now must go and track down Lenore and in the process take out more generic baddies.
Generic. That’s what this sequel boils down to. It’s obvious Luc Besson merely took a page from his action blueprint, one from which he’s utilized numerous times dating back to Kiss of the Dragon and, especially, The Transporter with some tweaking with the characters and plot points. They all, however, easily include some excellent stunts and car chases but in Taken 2, it all has the “been there, done that” feel, not a good thing when the script is a complete letdown.
One reason the first Taken was an international success was for its tight, well paced script which, in combination with star Liam Neeson kicking ass and taking names but here the screenplay was hardly tight and in fact felt lazy and even when the action did kick in, it never quite gained any sort of momentum. Despite a respectable 98-minute running time (92-minutes for the theatrical version), it felt a hell lot longer as action sequences seem to drag on and the story itself was far too predictable… even for the genre.
On the plus side, and easily keeping this from being a complete dud, is the fact that Liam Neeson perhaps was the only one who seemed to even give a damn. The stunts he, and his stuntman, did was pretty good and though he didn’t have the memorable lines like the previous installment (in part, “…I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career”).
The other cast members are fine but forgettable from Famke Jansen as the googley-eyed ex to Kim for once playing a hero rather than the captive. Neither are impressive yet they fulfill their parts well enough. Veteran actor Rade Serbedzija his best with such a limited role, one which is only about revenge and little else; I only wish they went the Die Hard with a Vengeance route and given him more meat.
Taken 2 was directed by Olivier Megaton, best know, for perhaps the wrong reasons, for his “skills” on Colombiana (a meandering action-thriller) and Transporter 3 and with this outing, I can’t say much good about his style. There are times in which the film looks competently made but when looking at it as a whole, there’s little energy and instead the movie kind of slows to a snail’s pace before the Mills family gets to Istanbul. One would assume that filming in such an exotic country that it would look absolutely gorgeous but it’s all so standard.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.5/5
This release comes with a reflective and glossy (i.e. fingerprint prone) slip cover. Inside is a DVD/Digital Copy combo disc (** Blu-ray Exclusive **); the DVD is bare bones and the Digital Copy is compatible with iTunes. Both copies are of the theatrical version only.
Deleted Scenes (6:56; HD) – There are five scenes that didn’t make the either cut. They don’t really add a whole lot to the story and were rightly trimmed or completely removed.
Alternate Ending (25:00; HD) – In a text intro, the director explains how the film was structured differently and after the original version was finished, there were questions about Bryan Mills’ motivation and they decided to experiment with what would become the current structure of the theatrical cut. This alt. ending is the original sequence.
It’s interesting to see it in this form and although there are some interesting changes (including rescuing his wife earlier and she’s in the car during the chase), it doesn’t exactly make this a better film. At first I wouldn’t have minded if they left it in, but as the chase dragged on, the level of danger was eliminated.
Black Ops Field Manual – This feature, which plays with the Unrated Version, is more or less pop-up trivia about the locations and terminology, satellite views of the location and dossiers of the characters. On top of the screen is a counter with the distance travelled, number of people injured and killed. For those interested, the final tally is 26 killed, only 5 injured. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
Sam’s Tools of the Trade – With this interactive feature, you can examine contents of the spy kit and get detailed info on each one. It’s really nothing special and kind of pointless. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
FX Movie Channel Presents “In Character with Liam Neeson” (5:01; SD) is your basic featurette made to advertise the movie rather than give some grand insight into the movie. Interestingly enough, Liam Neeson mentions getting the sequel right rather than making it sloppy… Yeah, that worked out well.
Theatrical Trailer (2:24; HD)
Previews – Broken City, Chasing Mavericks
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Taken 2 races through the streets, ends up on Blu-ray and presented in its original 2.39 widescreen aspect ratio and a wonderful 1080p high-definition transfer. As with most of Fox’s Blu-ray releases, must have something to do with their process methods, this has a fair amount of noise though it’s not overabundant to the point of being distracting. The color array looks well balanced and the black levels, while showing off the noise or grain, is decent enough.
AUDIO – 4.25/5
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is honestly on the disappointing side. While the dialogue levels are nice and clear, the numerous action sequences seemed a tad… well… dull. This isn’t to say this is a poor lossless track just not up to the standards I expected from a film such as this. Noticeable to me were the two main explosions which didn’t quite have much of oomph to them, though they do still sound pretty good.
OVERALL – 3.0/5
Overall, Taken 2 had so much potential and plenty of goodwill after its amazing predecessor, however what we got instead was a lazy half-assed screenplay that simply did a find and replace combined with uninspiring direction. The main saving grace is that Liam Neeson once again gives it his all and really saves it from being a dud. If there is a Taken 3, I only hope they take more time with the screenplay and maybe focus on Bryan and his Special Ops buddies that is something I would love to watch.