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A worthy sequel, without quite matching the original installment
on October 6, 2012
I knew nothing about Taken when it was released in 2008, but it proved to be one of the best action movies I had ever seen. There was just enough information about the characters to care about them, and the action was intense and rather elegant.
That shouldn't surprise me because Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen wrote the script. Besson had previously grabbed my attention with Léon: The Professional, which is one of the best action movies ever made. La Femme Nikita was another notable triumph. I mention all that to explain why I was already sold on the idea of Taken 2 as soon as it was announced.
So, did it meet my lofty expectations?
The opening scenes were something of a surprise with Bryan Mills (Neeson) interacting with his ex-wife, Lenore (Janssen), and daughter, Kim (Grace) extensively. I like that we are shown how Mills has grown closer to Lenore. In the original movie, she was cold and spiteful, but the two are clearly on better terms now that Mills has used his skills to rescue Kim from her kidnappers. It made perfect sense and rang true for me.
The plot is simple. If you remember Marko from the first movie, you'll probably know that he was part of an Albanian gang. In Taken 2, Marko's father is obsessed with avenging the death of his son. He's not interested in why Marko was killed, or that he was guilty of many crimes, he's only interested in seeing Mills killed. When Mills takes Lenore and Kim on vacation to Istanbul, Marko's father instructs his gang to capture Mills and his family. He partly succeeds, but Kim escapes.
The opening setup is quite long and thorough, and I remember thinking that more than half the audience were probably anxious to see Neeson get on with the task of eliminating the opposition in as many unique and violent ways as possible. However, once the action starts, it's relentless and intense. We see car chases, shootouts, fights, threats, brief torture, and a rapidly increasing body count.
Mills wants Kim to stay out of danger, but eventually enlists her help. I'm half expecting a sequel called 'Miss Taken.'
It's unrealistic to expect a movie of this nature to be completely plausible. After all, the basic premise is that a 60-year-old man is capable of defeating gangs armed with automatic weapons. The method Mills uses to escape his kidnappers is so simple that I have to wonder why he didn't do it about 30 minutes earlier, but I'll forgive that.
The ending was quite inventive, and paves the way for another sequel should Neeson and the cast want to reprise their roles a third time.
I did have a few minor complaints, such as the kidnappers talking in English when it's obvious that they would stick to Albanian. Another minor annoyance was the use of shaky cam shots throughout most of the intense action scenes. There's a fine line between adding excitement and losing track of the events on the screen. The line was crossed a few times.
Overall, I was happy with Taken 2. It delivered more of what I liked about the first movie and added depth to the relationships between the main characters. I don't think it's quite as good as Taken because we now know what Mills is capable of, and some of the pleasure of the first movie was seeing Mills demonstrate his unique set of skills for the first time.
Taken 2 definitely works better if you have seen the first installment. Some of the actions and dialogue are direct references to events from the first movie, and you will miss some of the humor if you aren't aware of past events.
Fans of Taken will be more than happy with this worthy sequel.
Two things to remember:
1) Never agree to go on vacation with Bryan Mills.
2) If Neeson uses your taxi cab, you probably won't see it in one piece again.