MOVIE REVIEW: Taken 2

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In 2008 Taken was a surprisingly effective, highly enjoyable, and unexpectedly successful European action movie, and it cemented Liam Neeson as a thoroughly imposing and believable action star. Now he’s back, in Taken 2, but has Major Spoilers been taken in by the movie’s special set of skills?

TAKEN 2
Directed by- Olivier Megaton
Written by- Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
Produced- Luc Besson
Bryan Mills- Liam Neeson
Kim- Maggie Grace
Lenore- Famke Janssen
Murad Krasniqi- Rade Serbedzija

Previously in Taken:  Bryan Mills is an over protective father, and when his “16” year old daughter is abducted in Paris, Bryan dons a black leather jacket, dusts off his Special Set Of Skills, goes to Paris and kills EVERYONE until he saves her.

Taken 2.

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No point burying the lead on this one: Taken 2 is terrible: The writing is incredibly poor, the acting is all one note at best, the direction lacks any direction, and the action is dull. It is that very rare thing, a movie with no memorably good or cool bits. With all that out of the way, let’s go through it.

WRITTEN IN CRAYON

The flaws begin on the page. The “story” is ferocious in its lameness. This time around Mills is in Istanbul when his estranged ex-wife and daughter surprise him with a visit. Then the generic foreign bad guys attempt to abduct each of them, in revenge for Mills’ Parisian killing spree, and Mills endeavors to stop them. That is it. There is no character development. There is no sense of continuity from the previous movie, bar the bad guy’s revenge scheme. There is no sense of fun. The dialogue is really quite terrible, with another clunking line or exchange every couple of minutes. There is only one line that worked for me: Kim “Why am i driving?”. Bryan “Do you know how to shoot? No? Then drive” Thing is, Besson and Kamen are both seasoned writers, who between them have written The Karate Kid, Lethal Weapon 3, Fifth Element, Leon, Taken and most of the movies Besson has directed and produced. But this time they just don’t seem to have put any effort in, which is a problem that carries through to other aspects of the movie.

ACTING SKILLS ABDUCTED

It is obvious that the script didn’t entice any of the actors to return, so they are clearly in it for the pay check. Neeson and Janssen seem to try their best initially, but Neeson quickly stops putting the effort in and simply phones it in (In fact, it’s more like he used a walkie-talkie than a phone). This is a great shame, because the success of the first one rested squarely on the shoulders of Neeson, who was great as the taciturn and over protective father…who was a world class head-kicker-iner. Fortunately Janssen’s character has less to do, being mostly just the distressed damsel, so you don’t find yourself becoming too weary of her. Grace is clearly a full decade too old to be playing this character, who is still a teenager. It doesn’t really matter how cute she is, or how well she throws a grenade, you just don’t buy her in the role. I could not bring myself to care about any of the characters, or their plight, no matter how bad things might get for them. Rade Serbedzija is grand as the head bad guy, but he’s not given enough to do, so even one of the movie’s best performances cannot be classified as being actually good.

DON’T BE FOOLED BY HIS NAME

Megaton has a very appropriate name for action movies, but his talent is seriously lacking. Whereas the first Taken movie was fun and thrilling, this one is cynical, not particularly fun at all, and is utterly devoid of tension. The direction is inept and incoherent…and that’s the best I can say. I had expected somewhat poor writing, and direction, but not this bad. Thing is, I was also expecting the action to be the saving grace for the film, not a nail in the coffin. To begin with, we’re over 30 minutes in before Neeson does ANYTHING. When the action does eventually come, it is terrible. The first car chase is terrible and the fight that follows is just as bad. Both feel like they were edited totally at random, ripping random frames out and inserting disjointed alternative angles. The editing really makes the action scenes confusing and boring. It’s not helped by the fact that the chases and the fights are, even without the shoddy editing, uninspired and boring. The grenade sequence is mildly clever, but is staged and executed in such a way that the clever is quickly forgotten and replaced with face-palming stupidity. The final fight might have been good, as it looks like it could have had some decent choreography, but nobody will ever know because it is just too hard to tell. The editing really does genuinely ruin the action: the flow is utterly destroyed, and it is too hard to follow.

There are in fact two good bits to this movie. First: That “A Real Hero” song from Drive, as well as a few other music cues from the same movie. But at that, they are really poorly used in this flick. The music in general is very poor, which is a shame because Nathaniel Méchaly did the music in Taken and it was one of that movie’s strongest aspects. Second: This movie is only 90 minutes long, but at that it seemed to go on forever.

BOTTOM LINE: Taken 2: Electric Boogaloo would have been better.

This movie is a mess, an utter shambles. It is genuinely hard to convey the true scope of its failures in a Safe For Work manner. If this movie had actually been Taken 2: Electric Boogaloo, where the special set of skills Mills unleashes are wicked dance skills and he then uses them to save the rec-center…that would have been a vast improvement.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

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