After watching the less-than-awesome trailer for Taken 2 a few months ago, I was concerned that the sequel was merely banking on the success of the original’s under-the-radar surprise. The sequel retained Luc Besson as co-writer and producer (which could be hit or miss, but a good sign to me recently at least); however, the replacement of the first movie’s director, Pierre Morel, with Olivier Megaton was a red flag.
I’ve enjoyed all three of Morel’s films so far (including District 13 and From Paris With Love), but I haven’t been won over by Megaton’s track record of Transporter 3 and Colombiana. The last time one of Morel’s movies was sequelized with a new director yet still retained Besson’s writing and producing credits (District 13: Ultimatum), it sucked. Regardless, Taken 2 remained an honorable mention for one of our most anticipated movies of the year, and despite being inferior to the original hit in every single way as Megaton has manufactured yet another mediocre (at best) movie, Taken 2 isn’t a total screw-up.
In fact, I liked it, and one day I’ll be adding it to my video library. All that really matters is that late-bloomin’ action star Liam Neeson is back in one of his coolest roles, a retired CIA agent whose grizzly bad-ass-ness and “very particular set of skills” are perfectly balanced with his calm poise under fire and longing to make up for lost time with his family. You mess with them, and in return, he won’t mess with you… he’ll mess you up.
It’s a Luc Besson production, so of course you get loads of gunplay and car chases in some European locale. This time his playground isn’t Paris, but Istanbul instead (which means more obligatory rooftop pursuits). There’s some nifty use of grenades, and I loved the incorporation of the Drive soundtrack.
Unfortunately, Taken 2 doesn’t come anywhere close to matching the intensity, suspense, and brutality of its predecessor. Not only is it one of the most generic action movies of the last few years (arguably the opposite of Taken), but the sequel is severely neutered by its PG-13 rating. What remains are just a handful of parts that’ll remind you of how awesome Taken was. The differences between the original’s theatrical and extended versions are notably significant, but even without the extra exit wounds and head smashes, Taken was still a great thriller. Not so with Taken 2.
Taken 2‘s Wikipedia entry revealed to me exactly how one of the villains died. Otherwise, you’re totally left to presume what happened at a climactic part… What the hell is that?!?
This sequel is more like a feature length epilogue or an addendum to the first Taken, some of whose best elements are glaringly missing. Here’s hoping that at least an unrated cut on video will give it some teeth, but even that won’t save it from being a mediocre movie. It may be one that I liked, but it’s probably a spillover effect from rewatching and loving the original. Taken 2 gets 2.5 out of 5 stars or C+ or Okay.