The first Taken was an unexpected hit - even the film’s star, Liam Neeson, admitted that he thought it would go “straight to video”. However, the hit-em-up action flick garnered over $200 million at the box office worldwide and transformed Neeson into a tough-guy hero almost overnight.
A sequel was inevitable, but unfortunately this watered-down version of the original formula leaves you feeling short-changed. In order to maximise its audience, Taken 2 has a 12A rating, and as a result, the violence and fight scenes feel dulled and lacking, a stark contrast to the grittiness of the first film.
The action has shifted from Paris to Istanbul, where retired CIA operative Bryan Mills is carrying out a security job for a sheikh. He invites his ex-wife Lenore and daughter Kim (Famke Janssen and Maggie Grace, reprising their roles) to visit him for a few days.
Whereas Kim was ‘taken’ in the first movie, it is now Lenore and Bryan’s turn to be abducted, this time by a group of largely-anonymous Albanian bad guys who want to exact revenge for the deaths of their sons and brothers at Mills’ hands in the previous film.
Taken 2 opens quite promisingly, with a blindfolded and handcuffed Mills instructing his remarkably more capable daughter to locate him using just a shoelace, a map and a couple of grenades. From here, it switches to a more typical pursuit sequence, including a surprisingly humdrum car chase through the winding streets of Istanbul.
Whereas the first film is largely unconcerned with the consequences of Mills’ slaughter, this film tries to inject some conscience into the proceedings, which falls flat because his enemies are still cardboard cut-out bad guys with little actual characterisation.
Another element of the sequel’s letdown is that Mills is too much of a superman, and his enemies never stand a chance against the set of skills we have become so familiar with, thus removing any real tension.
The fast-paced action sequences and shaky camerawork make it impossible to work out exactly what’s going on, meaning that the action scenes also leave a lot to be desired.
On the plus side, director Olivier Megaton has cut out any of the cheesy, unintentionally funny lines in favour of playing it straight, which I think was a wise move, and Neeson is still utterly convincing as the softly-spoken-yet-hard-as-nails tough guy who is now getting on and is sick of all the killing.
Despite showing such promise, Taken 2 never really manages to get the blood pumping, and feels like an action-thriller that’s been done by-the-book for maximum profit.