Saturday, October 13, 2012

Patience and A Suspension of Disbelief: The Very Specific Set of Skills You Need to Sit Through Taken 2

     It's pretty obvious what happens in Taken 2, the awful sequel to 2008's Taken, which showcased Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills, a CIA field operative who--when his daughter gets kidnapped and sold into an overseas sex trade--kills his way through dozens of Albanians as slickly as any well-made video game. The first film was simple, yes, but it showcased well-thought-out action scenes and innovative ways for Mill's to get his revenge. It was exciting fun, and the direction was stable and concise, rarely resorting to overly-slick techniques like the shaky cam or high-speed camera cuts that make you feel like you're watching a commercial instead of a low-budget action film. Taken 2 sits on the opposite end of the spectrum: instead of coming up with an innovate story to continue the Mills' family saga, this is same shit different movie, which would be tolerable (though uninspired) if the script wasn't written like a kid scribbling with crayon and the action wasn't so pathetically unexciting.
     This time, Mills and his wife and daughter travel to Istanbul. It's all fun (lounging in a hotel suite with gorgeous views of the city and swimming in shiny blue pools) until--while out on a date--Mills and his wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen), get taken. By who, you may ask? A better question would be: does it matter? These Albanian villains are all simple creations, with cliche dialogue and the ability to shoot ten billion bullets without having to reload, leaning in and out of doorways and alleyways like popups at a shooting range. These uninspired baddies, straight from the foreign villain handbook, are led by a man named Murad, who is the father of a man that Mills killed in Taken, electrocuting him with homemade jumper cables. So Murad has made it his mission to kill Mills--after he witnesses his wife and daughter get tortured first.
     Through a tense phone call seconds before he gets taken, Mills contacts his daughter and gives her instructions to avoid getting kidnapped herself. In one of the funnier scenes in Taken 2, she drags her dad's CIA kill kit from the closet and proceeds to run around the rooftops of the city, dodging big drops and bad dudes, setting off grenades in different locations so Mills--clearly the smartest agent in the history of agencies--can lead her to him just by the big sounds of boom. She get's to him at the exact moment that Taken 2 moves from laughable to straight boring.
     It's no spoiler that Mills, chained and locked up along with his wife, breaks free from the impossible situation (what else would a man do with a set of skills like his?), and proceeds to go on a rampage throughout the city, tracking down Murad and his mini army of lame Albanians. Whatever excitement from Taken has been lost here: everyone he sees dies with ease, even though Neeson--in the four years since the last movie--has seemingly eased into geezerdom, moving like an old man. The movie is so unbelievable that Neeson essentially grabs people, wraps his long arms around their neck, and then they die. Any hand-to-hand combat is disguised by quick cuts by terrible director Olivier Megaton--my bowel movements provide more excitement, and those are much quicker, 5-10 minutes instead of 90. It doesn't even matter what happens in Taken 2, because people pay the high ticket price to watch Neeson protect his family and beat the living shit out of anyone that gets in his way, not for acting and plot development. Unfortunately, they even failed at that.
     Maybe I wouldn't be so harsh on Taken 2 if I hadn't enjoyed the first one so much. But deep down I thought that the cast and crew could at least make something comparable, rather than incredibly worse. There are no thrills: sitting here at my computer, trying to think of the most exciting moment of the movie, all I can do is muster a yawn. There are no exciting moments in Taken 2. For the general movie-going public, it's just a bad movie. For lovers of Taken, it's insulting. If Neeson (more like "when Neeson", because after making a killing at the box office, it's bound to happen) gets a call from his agent to star in Taken 3, where Bryan Mills must save his daughter's unborn baby from revenge-seeking Albanians, hopefully he just hangs up his phone...and decides to take a nap instead.      (D-)

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