Taken 2 – Time For Revenge

Country: United States
Genre: Action
Director: Olivier Megaton
Year: 2012

Rating: ★★★½☆


Many critics have claimed that Taken 2 is basically a remake of Taken, rather than a proper sequel. I would dispute that. Writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen have created a rigorous scenario that follows logically from the events of the first movie.

As you might recall, in his quest to rescue his kidnapped daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), former CIA black ops Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) cut through about a dozen Albanian scumbags like they were butter. It turns out the kidnapping ring was a family business.

As Taken 2 opens, the family is having a mass burial of Mills’ victims. As you might expect, there is much grief, followed by vows of revenge. What’s funny to me is that somehow comes as a surprise to Bryan Mills, who is supposed to be pretty sharp. But actually, it makes sense in the light of general American obtuseness. His thought process goes something like this: “You guys kidnapped my daughter for the white slavery market, so I killed everyone who had anything to do with the plot. They all deserved to die, so what’s your reason for wanting revenge?”

Anyway, Mills thinks his problems with the Albanians are a thing of the past, so much so that he invites his wife and daughter to spend some quality time with him in Istanbul. If you’ve seen the trailers, you know that Mills and his wife get “taken.”

So far, so good. Now, in order for Taken 2 to be successful, writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen must accomplish a few things: they have to 1) come up with believable ways for Mills to rescue his family and himself and 2) create opportunities for near constant action sequences. This they do very well. As far as the writing is concerned, Besson and Kamen fail in only one way. At one point in the story, Mills says that he has to make sure that the Albanians will never bother his family again. That can only mean one thing–mass slaughter. But the screenwriters renege on this promise, probably because the retarded mass market American audience wouldn’t have the stomach for the ramifications.

Director Olivier Megaton has a different set of tasks. Visually, he must hit all of the visual cues to engender a Pavlovian reaction in the audience. This he does very well. He contrasts first world, wealth, and namby white bread music (the Mills) with third world, poverty, and ethnic music (the Albanians). And, because Taken 2 is first and foremost an action film, Megaton must shoot and edit the martial arts sequences, car chases, and gun battles in such a way that the strategies are easy to follow, and that the action succeeds as narrative, not simply chaotic motion. This Megaton fails to do, and he has no one else to blame.

The folks who have choreographed the mixed martial arts, car chases and gun battles know their stuff, but Megaton all but ruins the action with too much quick cutting and close ups. Somebody like Corey Yuen knows that such sequences are like a dance. More often than not, they should be filmed in a medium shot in at least ten second takes in order for the action to be coherent.

Fortunately, the dramatic elements and the acting are strong enough to carry Taken 2 over the rough spots.

On the bright side, at least the direction in Taken 2 is a vast improvement over the direction in Transporter 3, Megaton’s last project for Luc Besson.

Taken 2 is no classic, but it does the job and gets in and out in a breezy 90 minutes.

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