In spite of a critical savaging, Taken 2 was a monumental box office hit to a sleeper 2008 hit. Taken cemented Liam Neeson as a late career action hero and since that point, his career has “taken” an all-new direction. Films like Unknown, The A-Team and The Grey suggest that Neeson is well on his way to becoming the new generation Charles Bronson. So as Taken 2 makes its way to DVD and in spite of the disappointment of it not matching its hard-edged predecessor, there is fun to be had in seeing Neeson do what he does best.
The thing that has to be kept in mind whilst watching Taken 2, is that this is not in competition with the first, nor trying to be. If you can get over the initial disappointment, there are some fine Saturday night matinee thrills to enjoy. Taken 2, plot-wise, is a fair set-up for a revenge film and starts admirably but once we enter Istanbul, things get a bit uneven. The family peril actually gets in the way of Neeson dispatching bad gits with beards. There are the same heavy-handed stereotypes but it is digestible, when the leather jacketed badass gets his groove on. Sadly a lot of the mid-section chooses to focus more on Famke Janssen’s unlucky Lenore and Maggie Grace’s more confident Kim. It is nice to see the original cast back but it’s just a shame that it is at the expense of the man-on-a-mission, no-holds-barred thrills of the first film.
Still, there are the laughably (and more importantly, knowingly) absurd scenes that standout; mapping by grenade is a particular dose of barmy. Taken 2 sure is not art, but Neeson is never less than classy, committed and (now at 60 years old) still more than capable of doing this stuff for a few more years. The film’s biggest problem is the director; Olivier Megaton (Transporter 3, Columbiana) is very off behind the camera, ruining a car chase in the middle with excessive editing and shaky camerawork that jars the choreography and stunt work. It is a shame Luc Besson couldn’t have convinced Taken’s Pierre Morel back for the sequel.
Still Taken 2 inevitably picks up, thanks to a raging climax. Once the family perils are seated, fans are rewarded with a Neeson’s Mills being allowed to be the one man wrecking crew. The final fight in the Hammam (Turkish Bath) is particularly brutal and satisfying. It’s an explosive concluding chapter, which sees the film’s antagonist; Rade Šerbedžija’s Murad and Neeson’s Bryan Mills come to a satisfying close. A brilliant soundtrack inarguably redeems the film as well. The well-placed music (Chromatics’ Tick of the Clock) and varied scoring by Nathaniel Mechaly do the trick nicely. In fact, the track Fight in the Hammam almost has a Hans Zimmer-like vibe to it.
In short, Taken 2 is very flawed and Megaton was by far the wrong choice as director. Yet, if you are as up for it as Neeson is, then Taken 2 will offer the required thrills for a Saturday night in with a Chinese takeaway and a beer (or if you don’t drink, Coca Cola). It is disappointing next to the cult-followed, hit of a first film and at times this film feels somewhat neutered of violence (a matter that has been little alleviated by this “harder cut”). Still Taken 2 is not an entirely joyless venture and when Neeson is allowed to “do what he does best” the film is fun for those willing to play along.
Best line: “What I do best”
Deleted Scenes, Sam’s Tools, Black Ops Field Manuel and, if you get the Blu-ray edition, you’ll get the Alternate Ending too. It’s not exactly a grand offering but there are one or two bits and bats to entertain. The Alternate Ending is only slightly rejigged however.