“Taken 2” sees Liam Neeson returns as Bryan Mills, the role that propelled Neeson to action superstar. Its predecessor, “Taken”, was a surprise hit in 2008, making over 200 million dollars in the box office. “Taken 2” though, is a disappointment compared to the success of its predecessor.
Principally, there are two directions in which a sequel like “Taken 2” can go, the first is try to find what made the first film so successful and try to recreate that experiences without introducing any new concepts or ideas (a rehash, so to speak); the second is to take what made the first film so successful and build upon it, take it to the next level and wow the audience with something even better. “Taken 2” jumped right on the first option and went “let’s make a lot of money!”
The story is so simple that there’d be nothing left if I give anything away. Suffice to say that if you’ve seen the trailer, you know exactly what goes on. The dashing and sexy Maggie Grace returns to play Mills’ daughter, and Famke Janssen joins them as Mills’ ex-wife.
There were no shortages of action in this film. Neeson runs and guns, displaying movie-hero firearm accuracy and lightening-fast hand to hand combat that was so choppily edited I barely made out what went on. But it’s not the action that failed “Taken 2”. It’s fine if the makers of this film set out to reuse the “Taken” formula and create the exact same scenario, but they failed to achieve what made “Taken” so successful, and that was to create a dark atmosphere where the main character is driven by rage and revenge, and an urgency where the audience felt that every second passed diminished the likelihood of Mills rescuing his daughter . In “Taken 2”, that sense of desperation and urgency is missing, as we never feel that the family is ever in grave danger. And as the film builds up Mills to be unbeatable, the audience only has to wait for the inevitable to happen.
Despite my criticisms, the third act of the movie, usually the weakest in action thrillers, turned out to be the best portion of the film. The final few action sequences were better than the earlier ones, but the problem remained where it’s hard to believe that Neeson was in danger at any point because he can’t lose. The ending made sense, and dutifully leaves potential for another sequel, and another.
If they make a “Taken 3” (and it seems like they are. I’d go see it, as long as Neeson returns), I really hope the makers take a fresh approach to the material and don’t rehash the rehashed. As co-writer Robert Mark Kamen says, “we’ve taken everyone we can take – it’s going to go in another direction. Should be interesting.”