More ‘Taken,’ less successfully
Liam Neeson returns to the role of an ex-CIA operative with "a set of very special skills" in "Taken 2."
Updated: October 9, 2012 11:56AM
Liam Neeson continues to make being an over-concerned dad look cool in this sequel to his surprise 2008 hit, but this time around, the seams are beginning to show.
French action-movie writer-producer supreme Luc Besson (“La Femme Nikita”) is back on board with co-writer Robert Mark Kaman (“The Fifth Element”) and they’ve kept enough of the old formula intact in this follow-up to keep things from bogging down completely. Unfortunately, where “Taken” was a model of simple, direct, goal-oriented carnage wreaking, with its tale of a retired-CIA operative hunting down the white slavers that kidnapped his daughter in Paris — “Taken 2” is considerably more convoluted. Though, when the time comes, it’s still reasonably good fun to see graying old Mr. Mills (Neeson) trot out his black-ops skills to kick Albanian-gangster booty.
It’s not that Mills has anything personal against Albanians, you understand. It’s just that they won’t leave him and his family alone. “Taken 2” opens with a literal truckload of his Eastern European gangster adversaries from the first film being buried by grieving crime-family patriarch Mr. Krasniki (Rade Serbedzija), who swears vengeance on Mills and his family.
That’s all well and good, since it sets the stage for another juicy helping of what worked so nicely the first time. And it even tosses in a bit of fancy parallel plot structuring (vengeful dad vs. vengeful dad) as a bonus, if you want to take time to think about it. The trouble is, there’s way too much time taken in “Taken 2” for setting up the scenario, developing characters and relationships and generally trying the patience of the audience.
Where the first film established its no-frills situation with a minimum of fuss (bad guys steal dad’s daughter; dad tracks them down and makes them pay), then followed it through with laser-beam intensity, the sequel devotes way too much time to Mills family drama. Dad worries about daughter Kim’s (Maggie Grace) new boyfriend, her failure to pass her driving test (no kidding) and his ex-wife’s (Famke Janssen) impending divorce from hubby No. 2. He then invites them to Istanbul, where he’s been body guarding a billionaire, for a little used-to-be family vacation — and where they can easily fall into the clutches of bloodthirsty Mr. Krasniki.
Once that happens, it’s not long before “Taken 2” finally gets into high gear fulfilling the macho fantasies of old dads everywhere — and it even throws in a clever twist by having Mr. and ex-Mrs. Mills taken hostage this time and depending on their daughter for rescue. Besson misses a beat, though, by having the girl turn out to be more or less squealingly useless once she’s tracked dad down by following his telephoned instructions and tossed a gun down a stovepipe to the basement where he’s been shackled. It would have been so much more interesting to have her turn out to be a bootay-kicking chip off the old block.
Perhaps he figured that a crew of murderous Albanians would be far less threatening to the male ego than a daughter who turns out to be not-so-helpless after all.