Taken 2 (2012)

Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Leland Orser, Jon Gries, D.B. Sweeney, Luke Grimes, Rade Serbedzija, Kevork Malikyan.

Director: Olivier Megaton
Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sensuality.)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Date: October 5, 2012
Home Video Release Date: TBD
North American Box Office: $TBD

EuropaCorp, Grive Productions, Canal+, M6, Cine+, and 20th Century Fox.

Written by: Robert Mark Kamen and Luc Beeson.

(out of 5 stars)

An absolute atrocity, Taken 2 is one of the year’s most embarrassing films which, for all intents and purposes, should bring Liam Neeson’s career resurgence as an action movie star to a close.  While much of the failings in Taken 2 are not really Neeson’s fault, he should really have known better, because the screenplay by Robert Mark Kamen is a fraud and director Olivier Megaton should simply step away from any device that records movement.

Although 2009’s Taken did give new life to Liam Neeson’s action-movie career, Taken was also the definition of a guilty pleasure, a film which was hardly good, but mindlessly entertaining.  My niece described it once as “…that movie where Liam Neeson kills all of Eastern Europe?  I am so down for that.”  And she was.  And I was.  And while far from a masterpiece, I found the film a curious oddity.  Disposably entertaining as it was, I never anticipated that it would bank $226 million worldwide and become one of the most profitable movies of the entire year.  A sequel was inevitable.  But this?  This is hardly a sequel as much as a trashy, amateurish, low-rent wannabe slapped with the name Taken, presumably because Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, and Famke Janssen all reprised their roles.

Taken 2 has a plot, but I’ll get there in a minute.  What one should know going into this debacle is that you will see any number of the following things:

  • Liam Neeson engaging in a martial arts/kung fu battle with two adversaries more than half his age.  Neeson does the hand movements and stays stationary while Megaton zooms in and out so frenetically, you have no idea what is happening.
  • After failing her driver’s test twice back home, circumstances lead to the daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), having to drive in and around the cobbled and narrow streets of Istanbul at breakneck speed, making sudden lefts and rights, avoiding food carts and innocent bystanders, outracing roves of thugs, shooting countless bullets at her.  She can throw the car into a racecar-style spin, hit the brakes and back up straight, with no hesitation, all while driving a stick-shift?  Really.  Girl cannot parallel park, but can throw a 360-degree spin on a Turkish street?
  • As mayhem transpires in and around the streets of Istanbul, guns are firing, bullets whizzing by people’s heads and bodies, and cars are speeding through crowded streets, natives and passers by simply mill around in the background as if nothing is happening whatsoever.  My personal favorite?  The elderly man singing and playing a baglama.  Priceless.
  • The main villain here, Murad, a man exacting revenge for his son, the dastardly bad guy that Neeson killed in Taken, spends a majority of the time concocting his nefarious plot, coordinating his gangsters and thugs, on a cell phone while in a loveseat recliner-type of deal.  For a long stretch of time, Murad is sitting in a position where he could just as easily be having a nap or resting an injured lower back or hemorrhoid-like condition.  A fellow critic and I agreed that Murad (Rade Serbedziha) may in fact be the laziest villain to ever exist.  Seriously.  Man is in the chair, a half an hour goes by, lots of stuff supposedly happens.  Cut back to man in chair on phone.  Amazing.
  • Recognizing that he and his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) are about to get (ahem) taken by Turkish thugs, Neeson tells his wife to listen very carefully.  Then proceeds to lay out about 57 different instructions on how she can depart their car and get away from impending doom safely.  If the directions are not ridiculous enough (go to that opening,take the stairs, go left, then go down three doors, take more stairs, and go right.  Then look for a door…and on and on), Janssen starts yelling things at him such as: “What’s happening?!?!”, “Tell Me What’s Going On!”.  Clearly she’s not listening and obviously doomed to fail, since she is oblivious to where she is as she has only been in Istanbul for less than 48 hours.  And if that is not bad enough…
  • Not only does Neeson have the time in a cocked gun standoff to make a cell phone call to his daughter (Maggie Grace) and tell her exactly what is happening and what she will need to do to not be taken too (sorry…), he then, after getting captured, pulls out a secret square-shaped bluetooth-like device and makes a call to his daughter that goes something along the lines of:

“Take a pen.  Tie a string around it.  Go to my suitcase and find a map.  Draw a circle at these coordinates.  Now, draw another circle at these coordinates.  Do they overlap?  Good.  That’s where I am.”

Really, Liam.  Really?  Couldn’t just tell her where you were then, if you knew all of the coordinates in the first place!?!!?!

Neeson then, while preaching throughout the beginning of the film how his #1 job is to ensure his daughter’s safety so she will not be taken again, instructs her how to pull the pin and throw three grenades in various locations, after she has invoked her heretofore unseen skills in parkour and balance beam.  Daughter is naturally clad in a bikini and unbuttoned shirt completing all these tasks.

Oh my goodness how I despise Taken 2.  I was laughing hysterically throughout, with fellow friends and critics matching my tearful wails of disbelief.  I had to laugh into my shirt at times to stifle the potential ruining of the film for others around me.  But now, removed from the film, it just makes me livid.  Livid, not because it is a bad film – those happen and that is just the course of things when you sign in to this line of work.

No, I am furious because Taken 2 does not even strive to be good, caring less about whether any element of the film makes sense, is logical from one moment to the next, or whether the action sequences, supposedly the film’s bread-and-butter, are shot in any kind of way that people can ascertain as to what is going on.

The film is onanistic, allowing some idiot with the stage name of Olivier Megaton, who dazzled and amazed us with Transporter 3 and Colombiana (Ed. Note: no, he didn’t), play around with antiquated editing techniques, incomprehensible action sequences, and a film that even Liam Neeson seemed hesitant to promote on a recent television stop on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.”

Oh, yes.  That plot?  Okay.  Neeson is protective of his daughter after the events of the first film.  She has a boyfriend he does not know about.  Boyfriend seems nice.  Ex-wife is having her marriage crumble, accelerated by the fact her new husband (who we never see or hear) just willfully cancelled long-standing plans to travel to China for a family getaway. As in China.  Needing to go to work for security detail in Istanbul, Neeson invites the ex-wife and daughter to accompany him.  They go on literally a moment’s notice.  To Istanbul.  Daughter swims in the pool.  Ex-wife and husband get taken prisoner by the folks directly affected by Neeson’s rescue mission/killing spree from the first film.  Dude makes plans in a recliner.  Neeson fights, shoots, and kills people to save the ex-wife and keep daughter safe.  And music from Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive plays occasionally.

There.  Done.  Taken 2 is horrible.  Easily among the worst films I will see in 2012.  Olivier Megaton (yes, that is indeed pronounced Oh-live-ee-ay Mega-TONE) is a joke and I am saddened for anyone who pays good, hard-earned money, in this economy, to see this.  Look, instead email me – shouldiseeit@yahoo.com.  I will recommend a thousand other options.  Just do not support this.   Taken 2 is awful in every conceivable way.

  • You would like to be taken by surprise a second time around.
  • Liam Neeson movies are your cup of tea, as were MEGATON’s other films..
  • You have more money and time than you know what to do with and/or you are a glutton for punishment.
  • Please see above.
  • Seriously, I request that you please see above.
  • I beg you to read above.

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