There is a real sense with the second round in Luc Besson’s father-marauding saga that both writer and cast signed up to a totally different project at the start, only for a daft decision from above to make it accessible to a wider (and younger) audience to ruin things, and hence, kill of what made Taken so successful: its uncompromising violence with very good intentions.
Retired CIA operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is back for one more security job, this time in Istanbul. Reunited with his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) and naïve daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) in the Turkish capital, unbeknown to him, his and their cards are numbered by the surviving Albanian relatives of those he slaughtered on his last quest to save his daughter from the sex trade. They want revenge and will stop at nothing to avenge the deaths of their loved ones. This time it’s Mills’s turn to be ‘taken’.
Although Taken 2 picks up at a natural and logical point with full potential of another Neeson onslaught on another Albanian menace, there is not the same drive and brutality of the first that made it such a crowd pleaser – and Neeson the ultimate justice slayer. It feels frustratingly like a sanitised version of a hidden 18-cert cut. Shame, really, as Neeson in the avenging father role is a great character you truly want to get behind.
Another ridiculous factor is the absurd methods Mills incorporates to get his daughter to trace where they have been taken which seem to have absolutely no real consequence in modern-day Turkey and are rendered laughable in the extreme. Even another rooftop escape or narrow-street car chase does little to pull things back on track as it’s all very Bourne once again and unoriginal. A result of a car chase that ends up in the grounds of the American Embassy does little to rattle the present authorities either.
Apart from trying to stay alive this time, there is no real incentive to Mills’s ‘tamed’ spree of destruction in this when he does get free. The supposed ‘baddies’ spend little time cultivating our sheer distain on screen – through no fault of their own – and any deaths come with no visible damage or blood that it all feels rather pointless. Even the expected final confrontation fizzles out rather unspectacularly. The only satisfaction Taken 2 has to offer is seeing Neeson as Mills again because we had so much respect for his deadly methods in the last that you end up ‘filling in the blanks’ as to what just happened, when you shouldn’t need to use your imagination.
Besson and Neeson must be frustrated with the outcome especially given the unexpected success of the first that you do feel for them both, and that someone has tampered with their true talent for the sake of trying to make more box office bucks. It’s backfired. Worth seeing: only as a follow-up on a character on DVD/Blu-ray when released later on.