Picking up almost immediately where its predecessor ended, Taken 2 sees the return of Liam Neeson as the retired but still highly skilled CIA operative Bryan Mills and his worryingly over-protective ways. Before going on a ‘side job’ to Istanbul, he invites his daughter and her mother to join him after he’s done, as his ex-partner is going through a rough time with her marriage. But what Bryan is unware of, is the families of the men he killed in Paris have been plotting to get their revenge. When they learn that their target’s family is also with him, they become embroiled in their payback plans, and it becomes clear to them that Istanbul is the perfect opportunity to carry out their vengeance.
There’s no argument when I say 2008’s Taken was an unexpected hit. On a measly $25 million budget, it raked in a massive $225 million, so a sequel was inevitable. After watching the first, I thought to myself that I’d like to see a sequel, but wasn’t sure where they would take the story. After all, would the general public really believe it if the daughter of a man who laid waste to Paris to find her was kidnapped again? Well this doubt is put to rest instantly, as the film boldly opens with the funerals of the men Bryan killed in the French capital, and the apparent leader vowing to take his revenge. So already, there’s a valid and believable reason for a sequel to exist other than for financial gain. From there, we return to the USA and see Bryan Mills humbly washing cars – albeit on his own terms. It’s almost comical to see the man who went great lengths to torture someone now doing a task as mundane as this, without dropping the growl in his voice. There’s the re-introduction of the overprotective father relationship with his daughter for the 5 people in the world who have yet to see the first film, but this is dragged out massively and feels like it’s being told for the first time rather than being a recap. And herein lies to first issue: Taken 2 takes far too long to get rolling. It’s easily 45 minutes until the first signs of action, and when they arrive it’s over before it’s began: and it’s visibly diluted to cater for a younger audience.
What made Taken so memorable was the brutality of Bryan: mercy and forgiveness aren’t in his vocabulary. When the age certification of 12A (or PG-13 to American readers) was revealed a few months before the actual release, it was clear that the violence was going to be toned down dramatically. This is exactly the case, and the combat scenes are edited in such a way that it’s impossible to really see what’s happening, with rapid cuts from various angles being a major distraction from the combat. Disappointingly, Mills weapon preference switches from his fists to a trigger here, and opts to shoot his way out of situations instead of the anticipated hand to hand fights. Also, the rawness of the fights is gone too and it’s sickeningly slick: if there was one thing that Taken 2 shouldn’t have been, it’s definitely slick.
About half way through, once the realisation sets in that this isn’t going to be anything like its predecessor, Taken 2 is actually a decent standalone action flick. The signature car chase is unoriginal but passable, the villains do enough to make it seem like they have a chance of overpowering Mills & co, and there’s the occasional eye-roll inducing one liner, but it’s hard to feel like this is a worthy sequel to the film that made action movies relevant again.