Those of you who know me personally will be well aware that 2008’s surprise hit Taken is one of my least favourite films since, well ever. I deeply disliked the casual xenophobia, cartoonish depiction of Yurop (Europe) and all round head kicking dullness. As you can imagine then, the idea of Taken 2 did not excite me and I had no intention of putting myself through another dose of nonsensical, skull crushing chaos. That was until I was on a recent flight with eight hours to kill. Having already seen films I wanted to see on the flight out I was short of things to entertain me so tentatively pressed the Taken 2 button and closed my eyes in shame and fear when I hit ‘play movie’.
The film follows on from the events of Taken which if you don’t know involved the teenage daughter (Maggie Grace) of ex C.I.A. man Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) being ‘taken’, get it? by a group of Albanian people traffickers to be sold into sexual slavery. This all happened in Foreign (France) where everyone is evil and speaks English, not French. So, it’s a few years later and Mills is still overly protective of his teenage daughter, who looks about thirty by the way. He goes to Istanbul for a job and his daughter Kim (Grace) and ex wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) surprises him with a visit. Meanwhile the family of the nondescript but dead Albanians from the first movie are seeking revenge and ‘take’ Bryan and his ex wife.
Cards on the table straight away; I did not hate this movie as much as I expected to. I didn’t end up pulling the emergency escape release on the plane as I feared I would and have needed no counselling since seeing the film. Here ends the positives I took away from Taken 2. This movie is so ridiculously dumb that I don’t know where to begin. Early on we see a traditional (i.e. foreign and old fashioned looking) Albanian funeral, in Albania. Of course all the Albanians, in Albania are speaking English though because Albanian is all foreign and I don’t want to have to read a few lines of subtitles. What is this, a library? But wait Tom, I hear you shout. Schindler’s List was in English. You are of course correct. Many films set in non English speaking countries are shot in English but later, for no reason, the Albanians start talking Albanian. Then a little English and then mix the two. The same is so for the various Turkish characters. There is no consistency.
Towards the beginning of the film it is stated that mother and daughter are upset because new man has ditched them before their Spring Break trip to China. China. That’s right. Spring Break in China with your mom. Not Florida or the mountains or even Rome, China. As you do… This is how the pair is able to visit grouchy dad in Turkey. When in Turkey Bryan Mills explains to Kim that the Bosporus splits Istanbul as well as Europe and Asia. She is taken aback and says “How do you know all this stuff?!” Here we see where the film is aiming. “You see that big white circle up there, Kim? That’s the Moon”. “OMG Dad, you’re so smart!” He knows ‘this stuff’ because he is a human being with eyes and a brain. There is no need for such stupidity.
Later I was surprised to see that Mills’ suitcase is full of guns and grenades. I’m not sure how he got through airport immigration with that case. This was nothing though when compared to the unbelievable stupidity of what came next. When Bryan is taken he manages to call Kim who is back at the hotel. He tells her to take some grenades and throw them around the city so he can use the sound he hears on the phone and the sound coming through the air to triangulate his position. Genius. I have never seen something so recklessly preposterous on film. I couldn’t help but laugh. It should be said that when Kim herself has to escape, she is forced to do so in nothing but a bikini, you know, for realism. This movie is all about realism.
Briefly here are some more things that annoyed me. The Blue Mosque needs to be on screen about every two minutes. This seems to be to fulfil some sort of contractual obligation with the Turkish Tourist Board. I see no other reason for it. It is made clear at the film’s opening that Kim can’t drive and keeps failing her test. In Istanbul though she is like a cross between a stunt and rally driver, managing to evade capture in unfamiliar streets thanks to some perfectly executed manoeuvres. Maggie Grace cannot play a sixteen year old. The actress is 29. She looks 29. Her recasting reminded me of the scene in Friends when Joey tries to convince everyone he can play a 19 year old. There is a scene in which two characters ram raid the US Embassy and have guns trained on them. Moments later they are back out in the city with no explanation as to what happened, how they got back out or how they explained themselves.
All of the stupidity and dumbness aside, Taken 2 isn’t even fun. The opening half is slow and dull and the second half is fast and dull. There is no excitement in amongst the frequent kicking, punching and shooting and there isn’t even any jeopardy. As soon as a character looks like they’re in trouble, you know that they are seconds from being rescued. The acting isn’t something which is able to save this movie either. Liam Neeson is a terrific actor and Taken rejuvenated his career but he is really poor here. It seems obvious that he doesn’t want to be there and might as well have phoned his performance in. Maggie Grace isn’t really an actress but more someone who is occasionally in films. Framke Jannssen has nothing to do but be kidnapped and have a bag over her head. It might as well have been another actress. The bad guys all blend into one slightly foreign looking heap except for Rade Šerbedžija who has a beard so you know he is the boss.
Overall Taken 2 offers nothing of any entertainment value and is simply a cash in on the back of first film. The story is awful, the acting poor and the direction, messy and distracting. It is one of the stupidest films I’ve ever seen and as you can imagine I’m delighted to read that Taken 3 is in production.
Ideas for Taken 3.
- Bryan buys a dog which is ‘taken’ while on a trip to Africa. This takes the foreignness a step further as the bad guys are like properly black. Kim drives a tank through downtown Kinshasha in nothing but a G-String.
- It’s Kim’s High School Graduation, she is now 32. The podium from which the valedictorian will make her speech is ‘taken’ by a group of rogue Iranian nuclear scientists. Bryan Mills flies to Tehran (without a plane) to kick people really hard and return the podium.
- It’s five years after Taken 2 and Kim is now a C.I.A. agent. Bryan is again taken, this time by Doctor Evil in an Austin Powers crossover. Kim and Austin Powers team up to save Bryan. Famke Janssen is replaced by Liv Tyler as she is getting old and no one wants to see old women in a movie. Bryan says “Groovy Baby” once rescued, fade to black.