You've been kidnapped, injected with drugs and sold into sex slavery. In Paris. Naturally, you would have no concern traveling to Istanbul. And your dad, who was so paranoid about you traveling out of the country and, when you did get kidnapped, went on a murderous rampage, would have no problem with you tagging along on his trip. Enter Taken 2, where plausibility goes to die.
I loved the original Taken from the moment I saw it's incredible trailer. The movie had no right to be good: its dialogue, save for the epic phone call scene, was painful at best, the plot as simplistic as plots get, and Maggie Grace... let's not even get started. Still, Liam Neeson kicked ass and, defying all odds, so did the movie.
Olivier Megaton took over the reins from Pierre Morel with the sequel, because apparently the studio executives saw something in the Colombiana/Transporter 3 director that the rest of the world did not. Megaton's attempts to show that he is a director capable of directing a coherent film failed, however, as Taken 2 just doesn't work like the first one.
In other words, the movie does not defy the odds.
Taken 2 is at times fun, occasionally exciting but generally absurd, and not in a good way. The movie begins with a series of awkward scenes establishing how things have changed in the Mills family. Maggie Grace is no longer acting like a girl half her age, but Liam Neeson seems to have realized what he got into early on and shows immediate disinterest in the material.
When the film finally drags into Istanbul, things pick up, though Megaton's inept direction makes it hard to watch at times. The unnecessary flashbacks to the first film are a waste, and Megaton does little to build suspense as the threat mounts. When Neeson engages in his first fist fights, even Megaton seems bored with what's going on, and his lack of enthusiasm for the material - or inability to thrill the audience - permeates through every aspect of the film.
Nonetheless, once the action gets going, Taken 2 maintains a moderate level of entertainment value. There are a few scenes where Neeson kicks into gear, and when the action flows it's possible to ignore the film's shortcomings.
Still, the movie is just so damned stupid. Maggie Grace triggers multiple grenades just so her dad can get a bearing on where he is in a city. Really? Even though she's failed her driving test multiple times, she's able to race through the narrow and winding streets of Istanbul like a professional stunt driver. They then save themselves by crashing into the U.S. embassy, somehow avoiding the massive machine guns that would have torn their car apart. The bad guys are even dumber than they were in the original, and Famke Janssenn is once again useless.
The biggest problem, however, is that the movie lacks the flow the original Taken had. In Taken, Bryan Mills' daughter is kidnapped, he starts investigating her disappearance, he finds some people to kill and then he finds his daughter. The movie hard-charges in one direction, just like its main character. Megaton fails to do this with the sequel. Taken 2 starts and stops multiple times and few of the action sequences feel cohesive or energetic. The ending happens suddenly and without suspense.
When all is said and done, Taken 2 is a perfectly adequate B-grade action movie. But a few tweaks to the plot could have made the movie a whole lot less dumb and much more entertaining. A different director would have helped, too.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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