Monday, October 8, 2012

Movie Review: Taken 2

Directed by Olivier Megaton. 2012.

It is with great disappointment I report that Taken 2 does not work. At all. Yes, Liam Neeson thwacking and outmaneuvering hoodlum assassins provides a good deal of entertainment, but these scenes run few and are stitched together so routinely that they don't take on any importance. Worst of all, the stitches constitute the majority of the movie.

Taken 2 picks up where its predecessor left off with the family members of the criminals that Bryan (Liam Neeson) slew in pursuit of his daughter, seeking revenge. How will they find and take him? Well while they figure that out we sit and wait. And wait. For about a half hour we wait while the characters themselves wait to go somewhere something can happen. While we wait we watch Bryan console his ex-wife Leonore (Famke Janssen) whose new marriage is ending, and keep tabs on their daughter's driving lessons and new boyfriend. Hooray.

At last, by a swoosh of the pen, everyone is in Istanbul, where we wait. We wait as the assassins keep tabs on Bryan's family as they talk on the ferry and talk in the car and swim by the pool and please let something happen. As you can see the biggest problem with Taken 2 is that precious little of what happens in its 97 minutes is significant.

Finally the assassins make their move and I'll tell you for a movie titled Taken, the next few scenes spend an awful lot of time trying to prevent getting taken. This of course is necessary to some degree, Bryan can't be a pushover especially when his daughter had already been taken once before, but the scenes go on and on. The original Taken did not linger over the kidnapping and used its suddenness and the fact that Bryan couldn't prevent it to deliver a single blow. Taken held us in suspense by putting Bryan on a timetable and throwing obstacles in his path. This sequel seems to have ignored the problem that it can't add suspense by making us wonder whether someone will be taken, but only who will be taken.

spoilers hereafter

So it turns out that this time around Bryan and his wife are kidnapped and I would like to add that he was not entirely helpful in avoiding this situation. You see when Brian realizes their car is being followed he gives Leonore some instructions for getting to the U.S. Embassy. I tell you I couldn't follow his instructions and I was just sitting in the theater drinking my soda, unlike poor Leonore who was being chased through Istanbul.

After the slur of stock material that is the first hour, we have some potential for excitement. Unfortunately what we get is Bryan's daughter running over Istanbul rooftops setting off grenades so he can use the sounds of the explosions to calculate where he is held. Then she drives circles around a fleet of police cars, albeit with her father's help, before neatly plopping down in the middle of the embassy.

Absurdity aside, the pacing at this point is so unsure I assumed the movie had concluded and that Bryan would rescue his wife in the final installment. Reenforcing this sense were the subsequent shots, any of which could reasonably have ended the picture. This blunder of pacing and tone makes the finale seem a hasty, unnecessary coda. Worse still, the finale cuts so many times to shots of his wife looking potentially deceased and then turning out not to be, that any drop suspense dissipates straightaway.

The final confrontation between Bryan and the father organizing these vengeance kidnappings is competent, but not totally satisfying. While we admire Bryan for trusting the father at his word to end the violence, there is no discussion at all of motives, vengeance, justice, or any ideas which could lend significance to what we see. Likewise this sequel neither acknowledges nor develops the social and political dimensions of Bryan's confrontations in Taken and thus this scene doesn't resound any themes beyond the personal conflict.

Taken 2 concludes with an off-putting disconnect as Kim's lanky hipster boyfriend sits down across from Bryan, this loving father who did terrible violence for his family. The only way this scene could have worked would have been to strike the tone that Bryan was willing to protect him too. Unfortunately, Taken 2 is entirely indifferent to ideas and the scene is played for a laugh on the old theme of the father reluctantly accepting the boyfriend. Ha ha.

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