Movie Review: Taken 2

I caught this unexpected sequel in the cinemas last night. Man, I am fighting an uphill battle to see 100 movies by the end of 2012…

-◊-◊-◊-◊-
Starring:
Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace
Director:
Olivier Megaton (Transporter 3, Colombiana)
Rating: M
-◊-◊-◊-◊-

I absolutely loved Taken. It became one of my favourite action movies after I saw it two years ago and I wasn’t alone in my opinion. But it wasn’t the kind of film I expected to spawn a sequel. So when I saw the trailer for Taken 2 earlier this year, I was initially intrigued – until I heard its star Liam Neeson utter that title-dropping line. The stakes had apparently been raised; now instead of just his daughter being taken, Neeson‘s character had to deal with his wife’s abduction – alongside his own no less. That’s when a feeling of dread swept over me not unlike the one I felt when I saw the trailer for The Hangover 2. You know the one: “They expect us to believe that the exact same thing would happen again?” That feeling. So needless to say I became a bit less keen to watch the film.

But watch it I did.

It turns out that Taken 2 does try admirably to avoid aping its predecessor in every aspect, although it could have gone a lot further in that regard. It has a rather interesting narrative structure, with most of the good stuff happening in the middle third of the film’s surprisingly short runtime (it comes in at under an hour-and-a-half). The opening scenes are devoted to giving the three main characters more backstory, with particular attention given to fleshing out Maggie Grace‘s former abductee. She has a great deal more screentime in the sequel, most of which is spent much more proactively than in Taken. Once the action heats up, the audience is left to assume that the prowess with which she performs desperate tasks under pressure must be genetic. Or something.

The choice to use Grace as the focal point for the action in that middle third plays to one of Neeson‘s strengths, his gravelly voice, as his curt instructions help add to the tension. Director Olivier Megaton (awesome name) proves that he can handle this kind of sequence with skill. He doesn’t fare quite so well with gun battles and car chases though, thanks mostly to some truly ghastly shaky-cam work. It is extremely difficult to make out what on earth is going on in some of the movie’s most climactic scenes when the camera is so reluctant to stay steady for even a short while. The real shame is that when the movie inevitably becomes a near-identical copy of its predecessor near the end, the messy cinematography turns it into a viewing experience decidedly inferior to the original.

The film’s main villain is also forgettably one-dimensional and the plot is pushed forward at times by what seems like character stupidity, yet as I watched these things did not end up grating on me like I thought they might. This is because whatever flaws the film may possess do not rear their heads for very long, thanks to that refreshing brevity. Any action film that runs for less than the length of a football game is going to struggle to outstay its welcome to an audience, especially if it features Liam Neeson acting like a badass.

Taken 2 is not nearly as good as the film that birthed it, nor is it really that remarkable for much at all. But it does do some cool things, it is enjoyable and there are much worse ways to spend 90 minutes.
*insert sporting joke here*

.

THE VERDICT

-◊-◊-◊-◊-
Good:
Liam Neeson, tense middle third, refreshingly brisk
Bad:
Treads shamelessly familiar ground, shoddy shaky-cam
-◊-◊-◊-◊-

3 VsS O L I D

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: