The father of one of the men Bryan Mills killed in Paris while rescuing his daughter in the first Taken, seeks revenge on Mills and his family while on vacation in Istanbul.
Directed by Oliver Megaton (Transporter 3, Colombiana), Taken 2 is an interesting take on what happens after the events of the first film. I found the idea of a father whose son was killed in the first film taking revenge on the man who killed him, even though the son was a criminal and had kidnapped girls to sell into a sex slavery operation, an interesting idea. Rarely do you ever see a villain attempt to take revenge because he loved his son. Usually it is because of a loss of profits or the downfall of a criminal organization. In this, he may have been a criminal but he was also a son and father. Murad (Rade Šerbedžija), the father, simply wants Mills and his family to pay for what Mills had done to rescue his daughter. It is a very interesting dynamic, to be sure, which sadly is lessened by the almost inept direction of Oliver Megaton. Luckily, the continuing saga of the Mills family is bigger than the poor direction and there is a lot to like here. There are also some things which . . .are not so easy to accept . . .
Bryan takes his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen) and daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace) to Istanbul with him when Lenore’s newer marriage begins to fail. They are soon attacked by men of Murad, who wants them to suffer and die for the murder of his son by the hands of Mills in the first Taken film. Bryan and Lenore are taken and it is up to Kim to find them before Murad and his men kill them.
There is a little more to the plot, but that is the gist. Make no mistake, it is not simply Kim running around Istanbul killing dudes. Liam Neeson does the lion’s share of the dispatching of bad guys.
One of my major problems with the film is the kinetic direction of the fight scenes. They are filmed in a choppy, hyper Michael Bay style. This is terrible when you want to watch a fight scene, especially the first fight between Mills and the kidnappers. It is filmed so fast and is so choppy that it is almost impossible to make out what is actually happening. This continues over the course of the film. It is frenetic but completely unoriginal or interesting. It has been done a hundred times before by better directors.
Another problem I had was the villain. While his motives are questionably pure (the justice for his murdered son), he is boiled down to basically a mustache twirling villain. There is never any characterization to him. He is just sending his stooges out to find the Mills clan so that he can torture them and kill them. He makes a speech at one point about the men Mills killed being fathers and sons and brothers. That he wants revenge. That is understandable. But that is also all the characterization he gets. He is not a sympathetic character, which is unfortunate because a little bit of drama over action would have elevated this beyond standard action films. If you have a sympathetic villain, then you have to question who is the good guy because, good or bad, they are doing the same things. The things Murad does are the same things Mills did in the first film. Is his love of his son less than that of Mills for his daughter? Unfortunately, this is never explored, which is disappointing. Instead of a smart character treatise on hero vs. villain, we get standard action movie hijinks. Mills is clearly the good guy and Murad is clearly the bad guy. I find myself thoroughly disappointed in the wasted potential here.
There are a couple of good things to mention about the film, too. The change of scenery was nice, and it is always good to see foreign countries in film. Especially a city like Istanbul, which has a long and storied history. We don’t get a chance to see these places enough anymore, other than in James Bond films.
The acting was also mildly impressive. While Neeson, Grace, and Janssen all play their respective roles from the first film, I was impressed by Rade Šerbedžija as Murad. He played the character quiet and not as an over the top villain. Unfortunately for him, though, he is not given much to work with. He does the best he can in the role, which is well done, but in the end he becomes just a standard movie heavy.
I do have to say that Taken 2 almost has the best ending of any film ever. I won’t discuss it at any length here, due to the spoiler issue, but it was great until they pissed it away. It doesn’t mean it’s a bad ending, just that it could have been one of the greats. Instead it circles around and becomes a typical action film ending. You will know it when you see it.
Overall, Taken 2 is not able to live up to the standards set by Taken. It is not a terrible movie, and if you enjoyed the first film you will probably enjoy this one. I did enjoy the film, but have reservations about recommending it. There is just too much wrong with it to receive a glowing recommendation. There are some good things to be had here, but the bad outweighs the good. If you are interested in seeing what the Mills clan is up to, give it a look. Just don’t expect it to be of such a high quality as the first one.
** out of ****
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