I wanted two things going in to this movie. I wanted Liam Neeson. And I wanted Liam Neeson killing everyone. Did I get both of those things? Yes. It was like Christmas morning and all my presents under the tree were replaced with dead Albanian terrorists. I was pleased, even though the pacing felt a little tame compared to the furious drive of the first film.
If you’ve seen the first “Taken” (2008), you know what to expect. After having brutally murdered every bad guy in Europe, Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is now focusing on a nice, quiet life back home in the states. Driving lessons with his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), flirting with his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen), cookouts with his buddies, you name it. When Lenore and Kim’s vacation plans fall through, Bryan invites them out to Istanbul where hopefully nothing will go wrong.
Little do they know, a whole group of Albanian men are currently mourning the loss of their family members killed in Bryan’s aforementioned killing spree. Their bearded, crusty leader Murad vows to take revenge upon Bryan for his transgressions (even though these transgressions were necessary to stop Murad’s son from selling young women into slavery). What follows is familiar territory: attempted abductions, car chases, gunfights, fistfights, explosions and characters liberally using the word “taken.”
“Taken 2” works even though it is largely missing many of the elements that made the first film such a success. Remember the iconic monologue from the first film? “I will find you and I will kill you.” There are no such memorable lines in “Taken 2.” Remember how brutal Bryan was in the first movie? He mercilessly electrocuted a man to death and tortured a woman, threatening to make orphans out of her children. That feeling was subdued, if not mostly absent, in this film. The relentless pace of the first film felt staggered here as well, most likely due to Bryan having to save two people instead of one this time around. I found myself simply wishing for more once the credits started rolling.
In spite of my complaints, “Taken 2” is still tons of fun. The editing is super slick, performances are great all around and the claustrophobic, corridor-like streets of Istanbul are used to great effect, particularly throughout a white-knuckle taxi chase sequence. The film is at its most compelling when it backs Bryan Mills into a corner and forces him to think up an ingeniously inventive solution.
Put yourself in this situation: Your hands are tied around a pole, you have no idea where you are, your ex-wife is slowly bleeding to death in front of you and your terrified daughter is on the phone with you. Help her find your location using a map and a shoelace. Give up yet? I’m sorry, I forgot you weren’t Liam Neeson.