Title: Taken 2
"Taken 2? That Seems Kind Of Weak. I came up with some alternatives: Taken 2: Mrs.Taken. Taken 2: Take Harder. Taken 2: The Wrath of Slav.
Those...Aren't Really That Good. Neither was this movie.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: One Turkish bathhouse out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Albanian crime family takes umbrage at the murdering of several of their own by American ex-spook and decide to punish his entire family, with predictable results.
Tagline: "First they took his daughter. Now they're coming for him."
Better Tagline: "Like Jaws: The Revenge, with Albanians."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: It sucks to be a female relative of Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson). Scant months after the kidnapping of his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), she and mother Lenore (Famke Janssen) decide to surprise dad Bryan (Liam Neeson) in Istanbul. Trouble is, that's where the Albanians upset by Mills' merciless slaughter of their family have decided to deliver harsh justice to his.
"Critical" Analysis: Even as naked cash grabs go, Taken 2 is pretty weak. What you have is a rehash of the primary elements of the first film with a few minor variations. Paris is now Istanbul, the kidnapping victim is Mills' wife instead of his daughter, and anything resembling tension or suspense - like Mills shooting Jean-Claude's wife and threatening to orphan his children - has been surgically excised. That powerful (and awesome) scene is exactly what's missing from the sequel, for there are no innocent bystanders this time around, just scumbags.
The movie relies on familiar cues to make the audience comfortable; there's another scene of Mills' old CIA buddies grilling steaks, and Mills again possesses a supernatural ability to escape unpleasant situations. But there's little added to the mix. It's almost like director Olivier Megaton (no, really) decided to make Taken 2: Electric Boogaloo a parody of the first movie but elected not to tell anyone.
For example, Kim escapes capture this time around, and insists on helping dear old dad via his super secret spy phone. Mills needs to determine where he and Lenore are being held by the Albanians, and so has Kim lob a grenade from the hotel balcony so he can measure the distances. Istanbul is a city of 13.5 million people, but Kim luckily finds the one parking garage in the downtown area miraculously free of humans. And then she does it again. The second time is in a poor neighborhood, however. So who cares?
She also somehow goes from twice failing her California driving test to motoring like Steve McQueen through crowded Istanbul streets.
The bad guys are comically singleminded. They're led by Murad Hoxha (Rade Šerbedžija), though I don't believe we're ever told his name. All you need to know is he's the father of Marko from Tropojë, and he's a little annoyed that this hulking American tortured his son to death. Naturally, he's deaf to Mills' explanation that his son was a vile rat bastard who sold girls into slavery (I believe his exact words were a Sam Gerard-ian "I don't care!). It doesn't matter, because with few exceptions, Mills cuts through them all almost nonchalantly.
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I understand the desire to secure a comfortable life for your children, which is why Neeson agreeing to star in Taken 2: And Call Me in the Morning makes sense. But one can see his regret for the decision building as the movie unfolds. It doesn't help that there's none of tension of the original, such as the disturbing imagery of strung out teenagers, or the hard stop of the 96 hours Mills has to find his daughter. The character's resignation is almost palpable: "I have to rescue my ex-wife now? *SIGH*" How 'bout a little urgency, buddy? I guarantee Hoxha and company don't have pleasant designs on Lenore.
And who can blame them? I've had impure thoughts about Janssen since Goldeneye. Though they're all of the consenting variety, of course.
Taken 2 is mostly reminiscent of Hangover 2, in that it rehashes supposed high points from the original without giving us anything fresh. I also suspect it was cut down to receive a more family-friendly rating (technically, it's a "family" film), because the final death scene is so ambiguous I'm still not sure the guy was killed. The only thing I can think of more unpleasant than watching this again would be actually visiting Albania.