With Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen and Maggie Grace, Rade Serbedzija, Luke Grimes. Written by Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen. Directed by Olivier Megaton. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sensuality. 91 minutes.
The question after watching TAKEN 2 is not whether it was a good movie. It’s likely that not even the amusingly named action director Olivier Megaton would make that claim. Instead the question is whether you were bored watching it. As absurd as it is, with ham-fisted dialogue and utterly incredible plot turns, no one who is an action fan is likely to be disappointed. They may laugh at it, but they won’t be yawning.
Liam Neeson is back as Bryan Mills, the retired CIA agent who left a trail of dead bodies in Paris in “Taken” when his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) was kidnapped by a gang that turned young women into drug-addled sex slaves. Mills was utterly relentless in not letting anything get in the way of his rescuing his daughter, providing plenty of action and thrills without requiring viewers to think too much about the proceedings.
Not much has changed since then. Mills is still an over-protective father, concerned when Kim misses a driving lesson to be with her new boyfriend (Luke Grimes). What has changed is that ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) is in the midst of unpleasant divorce from her second husband and Mills is starting to look a lot better. Meanwhile, Murad Krasniqi (Rade Serbedzija), an Albanian crime lord whose son was running the prostitution ring and was brutally electrocuted by Mills in the last film, has decided he wants revenge against not only Mills but his whole family.
That’s it for the plot. Events contrive to get the Mills family to Istanbul where Mills and Lenore are kidnapped by the gangsters so that the shootings, torturing, explosions, chases, and assorted mayhem begins. Indeed, except for a couple of scenes wrapping up the domestic storyline that’s the whole rest of the movie. There’s a great car chase through Istanbul that involves a highly improbable climax at the American embassy. There is Mills instructing Kim how to use hand grenades as a kind of GPS location device. And there is the trail of bodies, stolen cars and destruction that both the good guys and bad guys leave across Istanbul. The film was shot on location with the cooperation of local authorities who apparently didn’t realize that this isn’t exactly a commercial for “come visit peaceful and safe Turkey.”
It’s been quite a while since Liam Neeson has starred in a serious film, although he had notable moments in a couple of the recent Batman movies. For the most part he’s been working and collecting a paycheck and, truth be told, providing some class and talent to movies that might otherwise be forgettable. Now having turned 60, he has indicated “Taken 2” may be the last of his action movies, although the door is certainly open to another sequel.
However it might be best to leave this phase of his career here. Late in the movie he makes a reference to being “tired” of all the killing. One senses the actor has enjoyed this unexpected – and financially lucrative – turn in a serious acting career, but is ready to move on. If so, action fans can enjoy “Taken 2” for the violent lark that it is, and more serious filmgoers can watch their DVDs of “Schindler’s List” and “Kinsey,” hoping that the Liam Neeson of that time will soon return to the screen.***
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His first novel, Shh! It’s A Secret: A Novel About Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide will be released in January 2013. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.