Liam Neeson returns as ruthless spy and man-hunter Bryan Mills in “Taken 2.” Though Neeson takes the story in promising directions, the film’s execution falters on many levels, and the film has too short a running time.
“Taken 2” begins not long after Mills (Neeson) ventured through Paris to rescue his kidnapped daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), in the original “Taken.” Seven of the villains slain in the previous movie belong to an Algerian crime family led by Murad Krasniqi (Rade Serbedzija). At their funeral, Krasniqi vows revenge against Mills for their deaths, including his son’s. He organizes a posse to kidnap and kill Mills, his close friend and ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) and Kim as they enjoy a working vacation in Istanbul.
The film sticks to the about 90-minute running time of its predecessor, which proves to be a hindrance in the end. The movie attempts to expand its story and generate some character development, especially in regard to Kim and her relationship with her father. It has potential for an interesting turn in the story, but “Taken 2” tries to fit this attempt within an action film that already shows a long and peaceful exposition covering the family dynamics. The movie rushes impatiently through its story arcs to meet the hour and a half mark and leaves more action to be desired.
Neeson’s performance feels toned down when compared to the furious energy he exhibits in the original film. He is still an intelligent and determined spy, but he does not perform with nearly the intensity he exhibits in his iconic telephone speech from “Taken.” Unfortunately, Kim does not make an appearance in the film’s climax. Her storyline, like the film in general, feels rushed to a sudden conclusion. Serbedzija is frequently typecast as the grumpy or dangerous Eastern European character, but in “Taken 2” he receives hardly enough screen time to make an impression except in a final showdown with Mills.
The fight scenes in “Taken 2” prove to be some of the most difficult to track. Director Olivier Megaton, whose previous works include “Transporter 3” and “Colombiana,” hacks and slashes his way through the fights with frequent and jumpy cuts. An initial fight sequence with multiple opponents jumps haphazardly to numerous camera angles within seconds. The camera tracks from one angle to another and then another, close up and farther away, and even at times flashes to bird’s-eye views with machine-gun rapidity. This creates a rushed sense of turmoil as fists fly and the characters beat each other with weapons.
In addition to the incomprehensible fight scenes, the rest of the action plays out in a predictable and simple manner; there is nothing too elaborate or clever to watch. In addition, most of the guards and gangsters enjoy distracting smoking breaks or watch a soccer game and are not ready when Mills easily sneaks up on them.
Some of the most exciting moments in “Taken 2” prove to be the nonviolent ones. Nothing was as tense as when Mills desperately reaches for a survival tool while tied up. Mills and Kim also generate excitement when he attempts to coach her through an elaborate tracking system or when she has to drive a getaway car.
While the original film was a simpler and arguably more enjoyable animal, “Taken 2” tries to expand itself within the first film’s limitations of time. The action and story blaze by so rapidly that it hardly registers or impresses on the viewer.
Overall rating : 1 ½ stars
Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace and Femke Janssen star in “Taken 2.”