When it was originally released in 2008, Taken proved a surprise hit. The plot was simplicity itself: The daughter of a shady ex-CIA operative is kidnapped in Europe. Using the skills he acquired while “on the job”, our hero mercilessly pursues the kidnappers, stopping at nothing to get his daughter back.
I suspect what made the film work so well was that Liam Neeson, the film’s star, projected such a no-nonsense attitude and was willing to not only rough up the bad guys, but also go after alleged friends (and their wives!) to get what he needed. Neeson’s Bryan Mills became, effectively, a force of nature and would not be stopped in the pursuit of his goal.
So, four years later, we get Taken 2. The film actually follows a logical story arc: The family of the people Mills took out in the first movie want revenge. And, wouldn’t you know it, but Mills and his ex-wife and daughter just happen to be traveling within spitting distance in Istanbul…
When it was released, Taken 2 didn’t get quite the same level of love the original film received from both critics and audiences. I suppose this was to be expected. After all, there are some big leaps in logic one has to accept. After all the crap Mills pulled in the first Taken, one would think there are NO countries that would welcome him or his family into their borders…yet the trio wind up, as stated, within spitting distance of the relatives bent on getting revenge. I suspect the film might have played out a little better if it were set on Mills’ home ground, with the villains coming after him.
But ignoring that little point, I expected the film to be something of a let down, at least based on all that was written/talked about. I was surprised to find, however, that Taken 2, while certainly no masterpiece, was a decent little pulp action thriller. The bad guys were bad enough and the situations were tense enough to pass the time. Yeah, there were other problems to be found other than the setting. Liam Neeson fights a few times in the film and, frankly, no amount of quick film editing can make him look like a fearsome fighter. Also, the film spends perhaps a little too much time in the United States before heading out to Istanbul (was it really necessary to get into his daughter’s boyfriend and the fact that she was in the process of getting a driver’s license? Don’t get me wrong, I feel Maggie Grace, who returns as Mills’ daughter, is a good actress. So good that for the most part she pulled off her role in this movie, acting as if she was 17 or 18 years old despite being 29 years old while filming. Still, there was little reason to get into the whole boyfriend stuff, which had almost no payoff in the end).
OK, OK, I know I’m starting to nit-pick and should just stop. No, Taken 2 is no masterpiece, but as mentioned before, it is an enjoyable time killer action/adventure film that only asks its audience to sit back and enjoy the ride. While perhaps not as sharp as the original, Taken 2 nonetheless for the most part gives you what you’re asking for…provided you aren’t too demanding.