Film review: Taken 2, starring Liam Neeson
AFTER spending so many years playing doomed mentors, the novelty value of watching Liam Neeson become a throat-punching, head-cracking action star in the original Taken has sadly worn off with this belated sequel to the surprise 2008 box-office hit.
Taken 2 (12A)
Directed by: Olivier Megaton
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen
Returning as Bryan Mills, the overprotective dad with a very particular set of skills, a quietly intimidating phone manner and a terrible taste in leather jackets, he may still be the best thing about the movie, but his presence alone can’t salvage such a misconceived, badly directed and weirdly boring action film.
Having last time liberated his preposterously naïve teenage daughter from an Albanian sex-trafficking ring intent on selling her to a sabre-wielding sheik with a penchant for virginal white women, the new film contrives to pull a switch by having the father of the men Bryan killed track him down to exact revenge.
Unfortunately, before this potentially carnage-heavy, exploitation-friendly plot point kicks into gear, the film stalls badly by focusing on Bryan’s domestic woes, specifically his continued struggle to let his now mildly traumatised daughter Kim (again played by the pushing-30 Maggie Grace) live her life her way. After everything she’s been through, Kim just wants to be normal, which means she wants to be able to indulge in some light petting with her nice new boyfriend without her dad having his coterie of CIA cronies run background checks or use the GPS tracking device he’s secretly installed in her phone to turn up on this unsuspecting kid’s doorstep unannounced when she misses a driving lesson.
The latter seems to be the film’s clunky way of making Bryan’s goofy dad-think more relatable: in addition to becoming a shoulder-to-cry-on for ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) as her current marriage falls apart, he seems fairly obsessed with getting Kim through her driving test. Still, there are signs that he’s mellowed a little, as evidenced by the invitation he extends to Lenore and Kim to join him for a holiday in Istanbul where he’s just finishing up his latest protection detail. Bryan even manages to keep his xenophobic proclivities in check long enough to fill Kim in on the city’s status as the gateway between Europe and Asia. She, in turn, talks to him about falling in love, secretly hoping that – as fireworks explode on cue in the night sky – he’ll take the hint and get back together with her mother.
At which point, you might start to wonder if all this cornball set-up is ever going to lead to any mayhem, especially since the film is already a third of the way through. The answer is yes, but it’s going to be unforgivably dull. When the nasty Albanians turn up, a brief, hyperactively edited chase through the streets of Turkey’s largest city results in Bryan and Lenore being “taken”. Luckily, though, in the first of many idiotic gaffes by the bad guys designed to relieve Besson and his co-writer Robert Mark Kamen of the burden of having to come up with credible ways to advance the story, they allow Bryan to put in a call to Kim to warn her they might be coming for her too.
With tersely delivered mobile phone conversations such a memorable part of the first film, such a development was to be expected (as was Bryan eventually locating that jacket). But any goodwill towards the use of this device while an army of bad guys have their guns trained on Bryan is quickly diminished when the film allows him to make a second call to Kim with a secret phone stashed in his trousers – a development that results in Kim running across the rooftops of Istanbul letting off grenades (don’t ask). Nevertheless, this is exactly the kind of outrageously silly plot development the film might – might – have got away with had it gone all out with the action in a Commando-style way. But it doesn’t.
Director Olivier Megaton, whose ridiculous name and even more ridiculous directing style made him a perfect fit for the schlocky likes of The Transporter 3 and Columbiana, seems to be labouring under the impression that he’s been given the keys to some kind of modern action masterpiece here. Thus, instead of serving up relentlessly paced cartoon violence, he embarks on a bizarre homage to Drive that’s so blatant that in one set-piece he deploys that film’s electro-pulsing soundtrack cues as well as a clock with a five-minute countdown. As the film chugs along to its lazily conceived showdown between Bryan and his anonymously written nemesis, though, it becomes ever more apparent that this is one action franchise that itself needs to be taken…out of commission.
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Thursday 20 June 2013
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