Starring Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace and Famke Janssen
Liam Neeson is gradually becoming a tragic character in himself. He’s just always having things taken from him. In 2012 alone we’ve witnessed him grieve for the death of his wife in the surprisingly poignant The Grey, had a ghostly reminder of his loss of a loved one in The Dark Knight Rises and seen him stripped of the last shred of his credibility in Battleship. As if having his daughter kidnapped by sex traffickers in Taken wasn’t enough, his aging heart is being pushed to the limit yet again in Taken 2.
If you didn’t get around to catching the original, which was a serviceable action romp at the very best, then it’s not essential that you need to be filled-in prior to watching the sequel. The film tells the whip-lash inducing story of Bryan Mills (Neeson), a retired CIA agent with a ‘very particular set of skills’ who you certainly don’t want to mess with. Except, people choose to anyway and it’s not long before they feel Mills’ snarling, overly-possessive wrath tear through their sex and drug infested European streets. Now, in order for one to retrieve one’s loved ones, it’s pretty much a necessity that a few lives be taken along the way. That’s the basic set up for this slap-dash follow up – basically, the family of the deceased kidnappers aren’t very happy and will stop at nothing to get cold hard vengeance.
The film sets the scene by demonstrating how, even years down the line, Mills is just as obsessive about his daughter Kim’s (Grace) safety as he ever was. Now Kim appears to have ditched her dream of becoming a singer and decided to canoodle with her new boyfriend Jamie (Luke Grimes). It would be an understatement to say that Mills is wary of Kim’s new man. In fact, he seems to disapprove so strongly that it wouldn’t be a surprise if the inevitable third outing sees Mills chasing Jamie for having taken his precious daughter’s virginity. This doesn’t stop Kim from loving her old man and when her and her mother (Janssen) pay him an unexpected visit in Istanbul they inadvertently wander right into the hands of evil.
Whereas the original Taken used its extremely linear narrative as merely an excuse to see Neeson break a few bones, the carnage that followed was no-holds-barred, brutal fun. However this installment, unlike its 15 certificate predecessor (18 on DVD release), has been branded with the fateful 12A, meaning that even young developing minds can feel the full force of Neeson’s bullet-spraying fury so long as they’re accompanied by an adult. This is something that will likely deter the bafflingly expansive fan-base of the original. A 12A on a film’s poster is pretty much the equivalent of a ‘Sugar Free’ label on a soft drink can. It promises to shy away from blood and to censor violence through nauseatingly shaky camera movements that mute the overall intensity. This is absolutely applicable in this instance, where the action is portrayed through editing that hops dizzyingly back and forth from one perspective to another like a child with an overflowing bladder. There’s even one moment where midway through a particular gunfight the perspective switches to that of a CCTV camera which, ironically enough, would be preferable as at least it manages to remain static.
So if a film like Taken has been stripped of its muscular defining characteristic, then you’re essentially left with a below-par thriller that could be described as Diet Bond or Bourne Lite. But it’s hardly a joyless spectacle, on the contrary Taken 2 provides ample amusement, but this time it’s not through vicious violence, it’s through it’s own unabashed absurdity. It’s more than happy to poke fun at itself through self-referential gags and it wanders so far outside the zones of plausibility that it finds itself in the embassy of hilarity. In no other film do you see the protagonist commanding his daughter to throw live grenades so that he can pinpoint her exact location. In its final act it tries to squeeze meaning out of its (thankfully short) story like water out of a stone and its such an utterly preposterous sight to behold that it ultimately makes for laughable, forgettable silliness.
These days most Hollywood blockbusters ask its audience to wear 3D glasses for optimal viewing pleasure. Taken 2 requires a different kind of eyewear…beer goggles.