22 December 2012

Review: Taken 2

(Dir: Olivier Megaton, 2012) 

Let’s be clear about this from the outset – Taken is not a good film. It only has one thing going for it – watching Liam Neeson play a no nonsense hard man, which is something he’s toyed with throughout his career, but here he fully embraces it. Aside from a handful of entertaining action scenes the rest of the film is a chore to watch, and it’s not like it has the charm or fun factor of those classic eighties action flicks. Inexplicably it made a ton of money in the US, found its true market on DVD, and so here we go again.

Yes, you guessed it, Taken 2 is one of those sequels that no-one ever needed. I had planned to avoid it and then the need to watch something light and dumb with friends arose, so despite my better judgement it happened. But I at least went in expecting the bad, and boy did it not fail to deliver. The plot is this simple – all those bad bad people Neeson’s character Bryan Mills killed in the first film... well, Rade Serbedzija is after vengeance for them all, which involves kidnapping Mills, his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) and attempting to again ensnare his daughter (Maggie Grace), whilst they’re all in Istanbul. This is all starting to sound like the bad running joke about 24 that Jack Bauer’s daughter was never safe.

So let’s start with the one solitary positive: the credits take less than ninety minutes to roll which makes the film feel mercifully short. That's it. Now for the myriad issues...

This is a terrible excuse for an action film. For starters there isn’t even that much action in Taken 2, but what there is has been so shoddily edited that it’s almost impossible to make out exactly what’s going on, which allows the violence to appear tame, bloodless and suitable for a toothless 12A certificate. At least the first film didn’t feel overly restrained in this manner. There’s at least one fist fight scene that should’ve been good fun to watch but ends up a mostly indiscernible blur due to the ridiculously fast editing.

Then you’ve got the cheese. Oh god the cheese. Both Taken films feature some of the most cringeworthy, painful to watch family scenes ever filmed and they just seem to get worse in the sequel. The only way to get through it is to laugh, otherwise you'll find the uncontrollable need to keep facepalming just too much. These scenes predominantly bookend the film but take up way too much time when Neeson could be meting out his own brand of justice.

Now of course you should suspend your disbelief when watching films, but Taken 2 features some of the most incredulous plotting ever. The way Grace’s character tracks her father down, with his help of course, is one of the most ridiculous things I have seen in a film for quite some time. Or never mind the crap about her struggling to learn to drive and suddenly she’s a master behind the wheel, particularly one with a proper (read European) gear stick. Neeson’s character is certainly far less enjoyable to watch this time round despite him again being the best thing in the film. Then of course there’s the "homage" to Drive’s “I give you a five minute window” scene, and the stealing of that film’s music (twice), which only serves to remind what a fantastic film Drive is and how dire Taken 2 is in comparison.

The message here is plain and simple – don’t watch Taken 2, it’s a bad, bad film. Shooting for a lower certificate may have made the film more of a financial success but doing so has had an extremely detrimental effect on how it’s assembled and what it can show. Never mind that thematically for a film of this nature this lower certificate is questionable anyway. Taken 2 is boring, laugh out loud funny when it’s not supposed to be, incredulous in the worst way, terribly written and poorly directed (with this, Colombiana and Transporter 3, Olivier Megaton has a mountain to climb to prove himself even a half decent director). All we can hope is that there won’t be anymore Taken films. Please let there be no more.

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