Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Taken 2

For F*** Magazine, Singapore


TAKEN 2

Director: Olivier Megaton
Cast: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Rade Šerbedžija
Genre: Action, Thriller
Run Time: 94 mins
Opens: 4 October 2012
Rating: PG13 - Some Violence

Taken 2 - Review

2008’s Taken was a film that, well, took many by surprise. It was something of a sleeper hit, giving its star Liam Neeson a second wind as a viable action hero, and it also made $226,830,568 on a $26.5 million budget. You know what that means: sequel time!

Taken 2 fashions itself as a revenge story - Murad Hoxha (Šerbedžija), the head of the Albanian mafia, is none too happy about the body count from the first film, his son among them. So, he vows to take revenge on Bryan Mills (Neeson) on behalf of the rest of the Albanian village too. Mills takes his ex-wife Lenore (Janssen), going through a rough patch with her current husband, and his daughter Kim (Grace) along with him to Istanbul for a family vacation of sorts. It is there that the tables are turned on him, as Bryan and Lenore are taken, leaving Kim to figure out how to get to them as the bad guys chase after her as well.

Most moviegoers, upon hearing news of a Taken sequel being made, probably had the same thought – “the first one was cool, but do we need a second?” Taken seemed like the kind of film that would receive a shoddy direct-to-video sequel featuring a completely different cast with the exact same premise, so perhaps it can be considered good news that Neeson and co. are back for a proper part deux, with Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen also returning to script the movie.


However, Pierre Morel is not back in the director’s chair – in his stead is Olivier Megaton, who directed the Luc Besson-produced films Transporter 3 and Colombiana - and yes, that is his real name. Megaton keeps the film at a frenetic pace once the actual ‘taking’ takes place, but perhaps it’s a little too frenetic for its own good. There are quick cuts and editing flourishes, and where the first film felt as fluid as it was dynamic, here it’s a bit more choppy.

One could be mean and say that the story is not much more than a rehash of the first and truth is, it kind of is – the main difference being that it’s Bryan and Lenore who are kidnapped, with Kim in a position to aid her parents’ escape. Surprisingly, the movie takes its time with its opening scenes, which reintroduce the characters and establish how their relationships have changed since the events of the first movie – Bryan, ever the over-protective dad, not taking kindly to news that Kim now has a boyfriend (Luke Grimes).

This, however, may leave some audience members twiddling their thumbs. It’s a good thing then that when the film kicks into high gear, it doesn’t stop. The filmmakers take advantage of Istanbul’s potential as an action movie location (Bond will next be headed there in Skyfall) and there is a series of foot and vehicular chases through the back alleys and across the rooftops of the Turkish capital. Thing is, we really have seen it all before – and done a smidge better – in the original Taken.

Neeson is as good as he normally is, turning up the intensity and furrowing his brow as only he can. Most of his dialogue is very cut-and-dried and matter of fact, which can be a little hard to take seriously given how his terse speech from the first movie has been reduced to not much more than an internet meme. Famke Janssen has more screen time but not all that much more to do, panicking and crying through most of the movie. Maggie Grace’s part gets more of an upgrade, and you get the sense that Kim has learned a fair bit from her experiences in Paris, and with her father’s guidance possesses a degree of competence (and gets to toss a few grenades to boot). Rade Šerbedžija is stoic as the villain, but not as imposing or frightening as he could have been, and it ends up such that the lower-level grunts seem to pose more of a threat than the head of the Albanian mafia himself.

Is Taken 2 a decent film on its own merits? Yes. But is it an absolutely necessary sequel? No. Was it made primarily as a cash-grab? Probably, and unfortunately, yes.

SUMMARY: Taken 2 passes muster as an action film in the vein of its predecessor, even if it never quite matches it in quality - it’s a little “run of the Mills”, as it were.

RATING: 3 out of 5 STARS

Jedd Jong












2 comments:

  1. This is a pretty obvious example of a sequel that’s only going for the pockets of the audience, but at least there’s still some dumb, idiotic fun to it for the time it’s on-screen. However, I do think that Neeson is getting a bit too old for these roles even though he just started it all up. Nice review.

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    1. I absolutely agree on both counts. Yeah, it's a cash-grab, but all things considered it's not painfully awful - and Liam Neeson is a big part of why it wasn't. He's the badass grandpa incarnate! Thanks for reading the review and for your kind feedback!

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