Ex-government agent Bryan Mills and his particular set of skills are back on our big screens, and receiving a harsh negative reception. The highly anticipated Taken 2 dropped 55% at the Box Office after its first week and scored a relentless 21% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Taken 2 sees the return of Liam Neeson as everyone’s favourite savvy ‘negotiator’ – this time casually holidaying in Istanbul on a national security mission come family rehab session. After assuming that leaving his (recently kidnapped and addicted to heroin and sold as a sex slave) daughter alone in a Turkish hotel is acceptable, he and his ex wife roam the city where they are too, inevitably, taken. Now this movie’s plot is arguably blasé, but it most definitely does not involve Liam Neeson being doped up and sold as a whore to a wealthy sheikh with more chins than SuBo. This time, the ill-fated family has fallen prey to the grieving relatives of Mills’ victims from the first film, headed by Rade Sherbedgia as Murad, grizzly chief of the Albanian mafia, which unfolds into a series of illogic pursuits, fist fights and conversations on a tiny phone.
The main focus of criticism has been the lack of intense violence – the somewhat softened blows of Taken 2 will disappoint the bloodthirsty fans of the original. Sure, you’ll get to see plenty of dead Albanians and a moment with a freight train that might make you do a little wee, but all the real action seems to have been edited away. It seems like it was almost written to suit the more moderate 12A certificate, especially when we see Bryan’s former colleague from the first movie brutally interrogated by a ruffian brandishing a teddy bear.
This void created by the lack of intensity slows the plot down, and is only filled by clichés made from the first film. Granted, there were a few chuckles when Neeson intimidates his daughter’s new boyfriend, but is it same old same old? The first film had a sense of urgency that this one seems to be riding off the back of instead of creating something new.
Furthermore, sloppy mistakes count for double in sequels, which are exposed to high expectations and a far more rigorous critique, and they certainly haven’t been ignored here. For example, even in an action film, setting off a grenade in a fairly densely populated city would attract some attention from the populace, but even Kim’s boisterous attempts to determine her father’s secret location go unnoticed.
At face value, Taken 2 is everything an action film should be and there’s no denying that Neeson’s set of skills are so cool that we all secretly want to be him. But as much as we like what he does, we’ve seen him do it better.