When Taken landed in 2008, it shocked the world by becoming a blockbuster and making an action star out of the fifty-something Liam Neeson. As is the case with any hit film, especially one that caught Hollywood execs by surprise, a sequel must follow. With it finally hitting cinemas four years after the first film, our Taken 2 review asks: How does it stack up?
Much of Taken 2 feels like the original. That is good and that is bad as usually something is amped up in a sequel. Neeson is still stellar kicking ass and both Maggie Grace and Famke Janssen have had their parts ramped up. The action this time is solely in Istanbul, Turkey where Neeson’s Bryan Mills has completed some freelance security business and is pleasantly surprised when his ex-wife Lenore (Janssen) and daughter Kim (Grace) arrive for a visit. That joy is short lived.
The family has gotten much closer since the first film as Lenore is getting separated from her husband and that has Kim thinking Mom and Dad may get back together.
Meanwhile, the seven men Neeson killed in the first film come home in coffins and as they are being buried in Albania, Murad Krasniqi (Rade Serbedzija) promises his family that Mills will pay for what he did to their clan with a response that is more deadly and much more emotionally painful to his entire family.
You can imagine Murad’s thrill when he learns that the entire Mills family is in nearby Turkey. Revenge here, is not served cold. Our retaliation comes steaming hot. Yet unfortunately, much of the action is not quite as fierce as in the first film.
Going in, Movie Fanatic had Bourne-like expectations. There is no reason to not think that the Mills character, and his kin, could be part of a trilogy of action that pushes the envelope.
Taken was directed by Pierre Morel and a man we respect, Colombiana helmer Olivier Megaton takes over for the sequel. His action credentials are solid, but in Taken 2, much of the action sequences feel staged and not as fluid as the first go-around for the former CIA agent played by Neeson. The actor is still very much up for the task of action hero and moves around as effectively as someone half his age. The lapse in the action department is not so much the star’s fault as it is the action choreographer.
Don’t get us wrong, there are action sequences that will have you at the edge of your seat. The one where Neeson is firing his weapon from the passenger seat as Grace drives through the Istanbul streets is mesmerizing. But, if audience members go back a few scenes before that, there is a preposterous sequence where Grace is being instructed by Neeson over the phone to figure out where he has been “taken” and it detracts from everything that comes next.
Fans of Neeson and the first film may be a little disappointed in Taken 2. But, it does have its merits and is a decent overall action film. It’s just with its predecessor being held in such high regard, one cannot help but be a tad saddened by the slight drop-off in action excellence.