Four years ago, Liam Neeson tore Paris apart to find his daughter. In the process, thousands of dollars in property damage were inflicted on the City of Lights, and dozens of lives were taken.
But something far worse happened that year. Taken ended up being a giant international hit, and that practically required the filmmakers – and Liam Neeson – to put us through all of this all over again with the inevitable sequel.
This time, the bad guys kidnap Neeson’s daughter in Istanbul – except, wait! In a very clever twist of fate, the bad guys kidnap Neeson and his baby-mama instead, and his daughter has to help save him! Oh man that’s so cool how they switched it around.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here! Because the first half hour of Taken 2 is actually a character study. We find out a lot of really important things about the characters that make them more relatable, like how Neeson doesn’t like the idea of his daughter having a boyfriend! And that Maggie Grace is supposed to be playing a teenager?
It’s just another day in the life of Liam Neeson, until he comes upon something . . . disturbing. Picking up his daughter for a driving lesson from his Baby-Mama’s, Neeson sees someone driving off quickly, leaving Baby-Mama alone in tears. Baby-Mama (Famke Jansen), it turns out, had just been ravagely told that her estranged husband that he wasn’t going to bankroll Baby-Mama and Baby to go on vacation on the other side of the world.
Who even does that?
Baby-Mama is left broken and attempting to piece her life back together, no matter how impossible the task may seem. That’s when Neeson steps in to save the day by being a really nice guy. “Why not come with me on my business trip to Istanbul?” he asks innocently. Afterall, nothing bad could happen in Istanbul!
That’s what I thought as an enraptured viewer. But it turned out something bad actually could happen in Istanbul.
When Taken 2 gets down to brasstacks, it does occasionally encounter success. A couple of sequences stand out, like one where Neeson instructs his daughter to recklessly endanger the world’s largest Islamic Democracy by plow-driving through Istanbul so that they can not just arrive at the US Embassy, but blow through the concrete barricade to invade it.
But even as awesome as that is – and it is awesome – it’s more the idea of what’s happening that makes it awesome than the film itself. Taken 2 is another wannabe-actioner that confuses quick camera movement and editing for excitement. Instead we get a flurry of dirty, grainey photography that evokes 2002’s idea of “gritty” (ironically, the “film” was projected in pristine 4K resolution).
No, most of Taken 2 is so rotely constructed that it would have been more exciting if they had cut out all of the Istanbul sequences and replaced it with They Might Be Giant’s cover of Istanbul (Not Constantinople) playing over and over again.
There’s definitely a place for the kind of film that Taken 2 is trying to be, the only problem is that Taken 2 fails meet its own standards. It’s supposed to be bad-ass, but it only feels like a cash-in.