“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”
This ranks as one of the best short speeches in the history of action films, and if you saw “Taken,” you will recognize it as the warning former CIA operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) issues to the scumbags who kidnapped his daughter. If you saw the film, you know that “Taken” was a terrific movie filled with plenty of action, suspense, and mystery. As is often the case, when we get a good escape movie like this, for some reason the filmmakers can’t seem to wait make a sequel.
And this brings us back to my original question: Why do they do it? How many sequels have you seen that are as good as the films that spawned them? I certainly can’t name very many, and despite the fact that the three main cast members from “Taken” returned to reprise their respective roles in “Taken 2,” this sequel doesn’t do the original justice.
“Taken 2” begins two years after Bryan rescued his daughter from her captors in Paris, and things are looking up a bit for the Mills family. Bryan’s relationship with his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace) has improved considerably, and his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen) finally has realized what an ass her second husband is, and she has split from him, opening the door for a possible reconciliation with Bryan.
One afternoon when Bryan stops by to pick up Kim for a driving lesson, Lenore meets him at the door with tears streaming down her face. When he asks her what happened, Lenore tells him that her estranged husband has just cancelled a trip she planned to take with Kim. Bryan, who has business in Istanbul in the next few days, invites the two women to join him there.
What Bryan does not know is that Murad Hoxha (Rade Serbedzija), the kingpin of the Albanian mafia and the father of the man Bryan killed in order to rescue Kim, has been plotting his revenge for two years and plans to kill Bryan in Istanbul. Of course it doesn’t take rocket scientist to predict what happens. This time around Bryan and his wife are “taken,” and their rescue depends in a large part upon Kim.
As it was in the original film, the acting here is consistently good. Neeson makes a great former CIA agent with his “very particular set of skills” he doesn’t hesitate to use in kicking the living hell out of lowlifes. Although Neeson is true to his character from the first film, Chase’s portrayal of Kim reflects a transformation she has undergone during the past two years. In the film’s production notes both Grace and director Olivier Megaton (“Colombiana”) spoke about how the change in Kim, who was simply the victim in the first film. But now she is a bit tougher.
“She’s her father’s daughter, and she’s finding out what she’s capable of,” Grace said.
“In the first film, Kim was young and naive and didn’t know much about the real world,” Megaton said. “But something incredible happened to her, and she reconstructed herself. She has matured. She doesn’t want to be passive again.”
Grace shows a real flair for the action scenes in which she is involved, and she handles the increased physical demands of this role very well.
Like Grace, Janssen had to portray how her character has changed from the first film. The Lenore of “Taken 2” is much more appealing than she was in he original movie, and in the production notes, Janssen offered an interesting comment about Lenore’s transformation.
“I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me and said, ‘You were such a bitch in Taken!’ But in this movie, because Lenore is herself in danger, you care for her. So it made sense for me to soften her up a little and make her more likable.”
Unfortunately, however, the good performances are not enough to elevate this film above the mediocre level. The movie doesn’t even come close to establishing and maintaining the same level of tension and suspense that made the original so good. Neeson does have several decent fight scenes, but aside from that, the movie remained fairly flat and uninspired because we had seen everything before in the original.
“Taken 2” (Give it a final score of six.) also contains one of the worst car chases I’ve ever seen on the big screen. In the first place, it seems to go on forever, and as Kim is driving, her father keeps urging her on. Now bear in mind that she hasn’t even passed her driver’s test yet, and yet she’s showing the moves of a seasoned stunt driver in the streets of Istanbul.
And while Kim is exhibiting her amazing driving skills, we are treated to the following stellar dialogue: “Come on, Kim. Go!” “I can’t.” “Yes you can. Go!” “I can’t.” “Yes you can. Faster.” “I can’t.” “Go Kim. Go Kim.” “I can’t.” “Yes you can. Go, Kim. Go.” “I can’t.” I kept waiting for Dick and Jane to show up.
If you haven’t seen “Taken,” I highly recommend it, but midway through “Taken 2” I found myself wishing that someone would come along and take me home. And if there is a “Taken 3,” I won’t be one of the takers to watch it.