Taken 2

tn_taken2TAKEN 2 is another Liam Neeson post-action thriller where he gets to be smart and tough and wear a leather jacket and then the camera wiggles around while he cracks some bones or whatever. I tend to like these disposable Luc Besson productions for their absurd gimmicks and shameless lowbrowness, but they were more fun when they also had good action sequences. This one’s from Besson’s acolyte of the moment, Olivier Megaton, who did the joyless TRANSPORTER 3 and the more enjoyable COLOMBIANA. Neither of those have action scenes half as good as the ones in previous Besson joints like LEON, TAXI, TRANSPORTER 1-2, UNLEASHED, KISS OF THE DRAGON or DISTRICT B13.

I didn’t love the first TAKEN. Of course it’s funny to see Neeson as a wrist-snapping black-ops know-it-all, and I love a simple plot about a guy like this saving his daughter from kidnappers, and it was funny how his overprotective father paranoia seemed to become a reality, with her getting kidnapped by white slavers about 5 minutes into her European vacation. But then there’s the wobbly action scenes (a shame coming from the director of DISTRICT B13) and it doesn’t exactly have the momentum that makes this type of premise sing. It’s fun, but should be better.

With that in mind TAKEN 2 is about as good as I could hope for. Not any better than part 1, weakened by familiarity, but I got several good laughs out of it. And actually it starts out very promising. In rural Albania, families gather to bury several of their dead, and it looks very sad except it turns out it’s the guys who Neeson’s character Bryan Mills killed in part 1. The father of one of them (Rade Serbedzija) vows revenge. And we cut to L.A., where Mills is at a car wash, insisting on doing the waxing himself because he’s so detail-oriented. We know those assholes in part 1 were kidnapping girls and forcing them into prostitution, but still, those guys have families, and the economic disparity illustrated in the cut from Albanian dirt roads and goats to Los Angeles car culture makes the resentment seem more justified.

mp_taken2Mills is kinda livin it up now. He’s getting close with his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) again, and she separated from her douchey second husband but still lives in a mansion. He’s worried about his daughter (Maggie Grace) because she has a boyfriend, but seems to get along okay with her. He invites the two of them to come with him on a business trip. You know, security detail for some Arab dignitary visiting Istanbul. So they can live like princesses in a hotel and go swimming and stuff. Families of dead white slavers hate that, so they come try to kidnap the whole family.

Really though this is the story of how Mills tries to help his daughter practice for the driving test, but his help doesn’t really sink in until she’s in a high speed chase and shootout on crowded Turkish streets. Maybe she would’ve got it quicker if he used his phone voice: “I want you to listen to me very carefully, and do exactly what I say. I want you to turn on your blinker. And I want you to change lanes. Do it now!”

Grace played an adult in LOCKOUT, aka SPACE TAKEN, because in reality she’s 29. I’m pretty sure she’s supposed to be a teenager here. It does seem like she still lives with her mom, and they never make fun of her for waiting until she’s almost 30 to get her driver’s license. Wasn’t there something in part 1 about how she had to get a signature because she was under 18? Oh well, at least they didn’t put braces and pigtails on her like that poor lady in UNLEASHED.

Early in the movie they make an acknowledgment that getting kidnapped and pimped out in a foreign country a few years ago could be traumatizing: she wants to take it slow while making out with her boyfriend. Mills, for his part, fails to curb his habit of doing things like having a background check done on the boyfriend and tracking the daughter by GPS in her phone. But I don’t see why he has to justify himself for doing this after the events of part 1. Maybe the line “I hear so many scary stories about people your age” was written as a joke, but Neeson delivers it earnestly. Buddy, you don’t need to hear scary stories! You killed like ten guys because they kidnapped her and turned her into a sex slave! This was pretty recent!

The movie suffers a little bit from the villains being interchangeable with any number of European villains in other movies by Neeson, Seagal, Statham or others. (In fact I thought Serbedzija had been in a Seagal movie but I guess I just recognized him as the homeless man that Bruce Wayne gives his coat to in BATMAN BEGINS and the owner of the mask shop in EYES WIDE SHUT). It spends too long on a buildup of the villains just going around showing Mills’s photo to people and stuff, standard things that are boring to watch unless the villain is more engaging than this. But if I remember right it has alot less excess baggage than part 1, which had that whole subplot about how Mills was trying to impress his daughter by introducing her to a pop star.

Mills still has his black ops buddies that he hangs out with, and they still don’t team up to help him, but at least he calls one of them (Leland Orser) to use his connections to help out with the U.S. Embassy. Like how McClane called Al Powell in DIE HARD 2.

The way they mix it up from part 1 is they have mom and dad get “taken” and daughter gets away.
Mills continues his famous instructing-his-daughter-over-the-telephone techniques while chained up in a dank basement somewhere. I bet she wishes that just once he would call her and say “I want you to listen very carefully and do exactly as I say. I want you to… order you and your friends some pizzas! I left money on the counter.”

He wants her to run but she refuses, she has to help her parents, so then he starts telling her what to do in order to locate him and help him escape. At this point I suddenly fell in love with the movie ’cause he’s got her with a map drawing circles based on estimations he made while mumbling to himself with a bag over his head in the back of a truck. He instructs her to throw one of his grenades out the hotel window so he can count how long until he hears the explosion and estimate how far away he is from the hotel. So, obviously you can’t entirely write this movie off.

Is it intended as satire that this girl explodes three grenades in the middle of Istanbul – including blowing up some poor random person’s car – and nobody seems to care? It’s not played as comedy, but it’s just one of the elements that works as a joke about Americans not noticing the rest of the world except as a vacation spot.

There are other funny moments, like when Mills tells his ex-wife “You have to stay calm” while she’s chained up hanging upside down with a bag over her head and blood dripping from a neck wound like she’s in a HOSTEL movie.

The big car chase is probly the best action sequence because it isn’t as badly edited as the hand-to-hand stuff, but still. One of the big moments is when a car chasing them gets rammed by a train and explodes. It looks like they did it for real but I counted and they show it from 5 different angles in about 4 seconds. If you’re gonna replay it you do it in slo-mo the second time, you nitwits. Ask Jackie Chan, he’ll tell you.

(By the way, the blu-ray/DVD includes an “alternate ending” that’s 25 minutes long. It’s the same thing except he rescues Famke on his first attempt, so she’s there during the car chase. I don’t know if they CGId her out or reshot all the interior car stuff.)

You know what, in retrospect maybe he shouldn’t have invited the girls along to Istanbul. Would’ve been way better for everybody involved.

I like how the movie deals with this endless circle of revenge. It gets the point across without being heavy-handed enough to seem hypocritical, like RAMBO did with that intro showing real world atrocities. There’s a cool climactic showdown where Mills tries to be honorable but… instead has to do what he refers to “what I do best.” And then it ends exactly how TAKEN 2 should end: Mills, who knows that more Albanians will come to avenge him and he’ll have to murder them also, eats ice cream sundaes with his family.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 15th, 2013 at 9:38 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

42 Responses to “Taken 2”

  1. !!!

    Wasn’t Serbedzija the bad guy in The Saint? Featuring Val Kilmer WHO ALSO PLAYED BATMAN?!?!?!

  2. Serbedzija played Boris The Bullet Dodger in ‘Snatch’.

    I hope to Christ everyone that peruses this site has seen ‘Snatch’!

  3. And ‘This is a nice coat’ guy from Batman Begins.

  4. Maggie Grace just throwing grenades around Istanbul (getting more careless with each one) did make me laugh a lot. Otherwise this is pretty dull.

  5. caruso_stalker217

    January 16th, 2013 at 1:33 am

    Probably the worst film I saw at the theater last year.

    The first thirty minutes of this thing were fucking brutal. Nobody gives a shit about the family garbage. This fucker should have started with a bang and never let up. Instead there’s all that boring nonsense to wade through.

    I watched the first movie after getting back from this one and I was surprised how much clearer the action was shot and edited.

    They recast two of Liam’s CIA buddies, or maybe they’re two different characters, but I’d like to think they’re supposed to be the same dudes.

    Liam looked really tired and slow in this one.

    They should have let Maggie Grace say the taken line in this one. “Dad…listen to me very carefully…. you and mom… are going to be taken!”

    The ridiculous grenade throwing scene was good, but the rest was pretty lame. If I remember correctly, doesn’t Liam fight a fat guy at the end? Like that’s his major opponent?

    And then everybody went out for milkshakes.

  6. I can’t say that it bothers me much, but this Bryan Mills is NOT the Bryan Mills from the first TAKEN movie. Where’s the misjudged red hair, the lips stained blue from too much red wine on location, and where’s the borderline fascist world view?

  7. I loved the mean streak in the violence in TAKEN 1. Neeson breaks bones, punches dudes in the throat, and stabs a guy on the leg and electrocutes him to death. And he shoots that cop’s wife in the arm just to make a point. That’s what was so fun about that film – Liam Neeson playing a ruthless badass character. It was so unexpected. But all I saw was the harder European cut when it came over here.

    For TAKEN 2, I saw the theatrical cut. It was bloodless, sanitized mess, and I was terribly disappointed in that. But now I read there’s an unrated cut on DVD/Blu. Anyone care to tell what’s different? I’m still holding hope that it might fix the issues I have with the film.

  8. Serbedzija also played the Russian guy in SPACE COWBOYS.

  9. The Original... Paul

    January 16th, 2013 at 7:57 am

    Still haven’t seen Taken 1 or 2 yet. I’ve got 1 on my “to see” list though. When it came out it looked like complete garbage, but word of mouth has been positive enough that I’d like to see it.

    Word of mouth on this one was pretty bad though. I take it nobody’s recommending I spend money on this thing?

  10. Serbedzija is in fact probably the most profilic Balkan actor around, with a huge body of work. He was a huge star in Ex-Yoguslavia back in the 70’s and 80’s. I’ve been familiar with him since 1994, when he made the highly acclaimed, english-speaking art-house drama Before The Rain. I saw that in the theatre back in the day.

    That film is probably what got him the roles as the main villains in The Saint and Mighty Joe Young, two big budget Hollywood films. And of course he was Boris The Blade in Snatch. And he is a very good actor, even if his bad guy roles probably aren’t the best showcases for his ability.

    So while Serbedzija arguably peaked in the 90’s, it’s still a really impressive career for a Croatian guy.

    As for Taken 2, it was pretty good. The “detective” scene with the father and daughter working together was my favorite moment, no matter how preposterous the hand grenades might have been. And the whole premise of the revengeful families of the killed henchmen of the previous movie is pretty clever and ballsy. If you really think about it, a lot of action movies should logically have sequels like this. The henchmen are people too, with families that loved them.

  11. Every film should end with the main characters eating of ice cream. Imagine how that would have improved “Texas Chainsaw 3D”. “Want some more hot fudge, cuz? Go on. Do your thing!”
    *Leatherface proceeds to chow down like Napoleon in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”*

    Seriously, though… what is it with Besson-branded actioners having terrible sequels. District b13, Transporter, and Taken were all slick… kinda silly action films with mediocre sequels that didn’t even fulfill the promise of decent action.

  12. Do you have anything to say about the level of violence in this film compared to the first, Vern? I heard a lot of complaints that they went totally Ellis, stripping out all the blood and violence so they could ensure that sweet, sweet PG-13 money. Since the over-the-top brutality was the one of the main things I enjoyed about the first movie (which was PG-13 too, I thought?), I skipped the sequel.

    The grenade part sounds pretty funny, though.

  13. Well, now that it’s been brought up I’d guess the hand-to-hand is probly more brutal in the first one. But the truth is I don’t remember the first one in much detail, I only saw the PG-13 version of that (unrated on part 2) and in both the fights are so shaky it’s more of an impression of whether or not it’s violent than actually knowing for sure. But he doesn’t electrocute anybody or shoot an innocent person on purpose, so it might be disappointing to you in that sense.

  14. The audience I saw it with laughed out loud at Maggie Grace throwing grenades. I hope we have seen the end of tjis series, but I doubt it. Also Liam Neeson needs to get back to quality films before he goes down the dark path that Nicolas Cage walsk these days.

    For further thoughts read my review in the October issue at moviezonemagazine.com

  15. “Every film should end with the main characters eating of ice cream”

    I was thinking the same thing

  16. I’ve only seen the uncut versions of TAKEN 1 and 2, and the first one is far more violent both in tone and graphics.

    Neeson has said that he definetively won’t be back for a third movie, but didn’t he sort of look at his son-in -law to be like “maybe this guy could do the next one” in the milkshake scene?

  17. This film is right up there with End of Watch as one of the most bigoted movies of last year.
    I’m all for generic swarms of bad guys in films but this is some targeted bullshit.

  18. Paul: I think the overall dip in quality between the two TAKENS has been largely overstated, but I agree that the small details in the second one aren’t handled as well as in the first, like the brutality of the fights and Neeson’s overall listlessness. Those can be dealbreakers for some people. For me, I was just glad that it wasn’t as maudlin as DANNY THE DOG and not as outright terrible as FROM PARIS WITH LOVE.

    But then I enjoyed the DISTRICT B13 sequel more than the original, so take that for what it’s worth.

  19. Funny enough, it was the meolodrama in Danny the Dog (as well as the brutal fights) that really sold me on it. The weird tonal shift between sentimental and ass kicking is often a plus for me. This is also what I liked about (the action remake of) Chocolate. But I’m not sure if I would be as forgiving when it comes to American movies. Maybe this just makes me racist.

  20. Vern, you should really check out “Unknown”, the thriller Liam Neeson made between Taken 1 and 2.
    It’s actually better than both, has better filmed action (a pretty cool car chase), and a clever story.
    Surprised you didn’t check it out, since it’s from the same guy who directed Orphan, and I remember you liked that one a lot.

  21. bullet – I saw UNKNOWN. I think I have a half-written review around here somewhere. I thought it was okay but forgettable, not as interesting as ORPHAN. I’ll see if I can dig up what I wrote about it.

  22. If you gonna see Liam in action I say stick with the classics Sam Raimi’s “Darkman”, “Rob Roy” and the guilty pleasure of “Next of Kin” with the best line ever when Neeson asks Michael j. Pollard if he has a gun and Michael J. replys “hell no I’d shoot someone”.

  23. Is anyone whose seen the uncut version able to tell me what was missing from Rade Serbedzija’s death scene? In the theatrical cut he literally pushes his face and the guy is dead!! What? Surely we were missing a neck snap or him being impaled on a pipe or something???

    I loved the section where he navigates Maggie Grace to him, but otherwise thought this was awful – and I loved the first. The editing is ATROCIOUS. Just watch the opening funeral scene – it cuts all over the place on what is a slow-burning scene and the fighting is worse. Completely incoherent. I was actually quite angry about it when I left the cinema.

    Also the film was kind of over after the car chase – having to go back and get his wife AGAIN (when he had no real reason to leave her to begin with) felt so tacked on. A lazy effort.

    And everything I’ve seen from him suggests Olivier Megaton is a terrible director.

    Still – this made loads at the box office so they probably all think they produced another winner.

  24. Simon, he impaled him on a towel hook. It’s in the PG-13 cut, but it’s implied.

    Unknown was pretty average. It felt more like a shitty Harrison Ford flick than a neo-Neeson. Taken 2 was perfectly suited for the dollar cinema (actually now $2 – fuck inflation).

    I would like to see a Bryan Mills/Jack Bauer joint. The badassitude would cause a cinematic eyeball meltdown.

  25. Thanks Darth, that makes more sense!

    I think they should have just had a story where he was out on assignment with his former team-mates that went wrong or something along those lines – it was always Neeson that was the big draw from part 1, we didn’t necessarily need to involve the family again. Just needed Mills and another ticking clock deadline of some sort. The villains out for revenge could have been good, but they clearly didn’t have enough story to warrant a second film.

  26. CaptainTass: “Snatch,” owned on DVD. but of course

  27. unlimited adult hosting makes a good point.

  28. “THEY WANT REVENGE
    THEY CHOSE THE WRONG GUY”

    I don’t get it how did they choose the wrong guy. Is there a mistaken identity comedy subplot where they kidnap, torture and murder hollywood actor Liam Neeson for his resemblance to Bryan Mills or something?

  29. I’d watch that movie. Reminds me of when in A-TEAM they had to disguise themselves to get through customs, and Hannibal’s disguise is to basically just dye his hair dark and wear a nice suit, in other words, to dress up like Liam Neeson.

  30. Maybe it’s a little too late in life to ask this question, but what the hell happened to Luc Besson? His early action films were pretty unique. They were a cross breed between classic action movies and Gallic art house cinema. And now he produces a number of b-movie action films (some better than others) that, while they’re not all bad, they’re also somewhat interchangeable. He’s gone from producing some unique movies to turning out a fungible product year after year.

  31. I guess it’s the same reason I quit professional sports and started hanging around in honky tonks drinking beer; Life is short, so why not enjoy it while it lasts? The movies he produces make a lot of money, the arty stuff are hard work and doesn’t. And before someone makes the joke; No, I don’t make money drinking beer and listening to Dwight Yoakam, but I made even less driving a motorcycle.

  32. I liked TAKEN TOO: STILL TAKEN AFTER ALL THESE YEARS. I liked that it was actually the families of the kidnappers wanting revenge and not some new kidnapping. The grenade throwing adheres to my movie rule that it works because it’s awesome. I love that the end is just he has to fight all these guys because he has to fight a bunch of guys for the big finish. It’s all very Luc Besson euro emotional artistic versus Hollywood linear storytelling.

    I wish Besson wouldn’t use that Megaton guy though. I liked TRANSPORTER 3 for its insane dialogue and acceptable action, but thought COLOMBIANA was terrible. Is there a Vern review on here? I don’t rememeber it.

    You guys aren’t going to make me talk about UNKNOWN again, are you? And where did Neeson say he wouldn’t do TAKEN 3? I thought it got green lit as soon as this opened to $50 mil. Plus, since when does Neeson turn down work? I for one am looking forward to ANOTHER TAKEN: TAKEN AGAIN.

  33. Saw this the other night and, to be fair, I have to give props to the makers for delivering a sequel that successfully stands up to the utter mediocrity of the first film, MIDDLE CLASS COMMANDO.

    Watching pt 2 I realisde what an awful bore Neeson’s character is – as well as the rest of his awful family.

    The version I saw was the uncut, extended version and the bad guy seems to die from “death from head being pushed onto coat hook”. I think. Didn’t notice any gore at all.

    I won’t be checking out T3.

  34. What if it’s a prequel? TAKEN ABACK?

  35. I’ve heard pt3 will put Neeson’s character in drag.

    The working title is MISS-TAKEN.

  36. No, the next film’s bad guys instead decide to target his career and make him lose his job, so they kidnap the latest musicians he’s kidnapping, Bachman Turner Overdrive. TAKEN CARE OF BUSINESS.

  37. ^latest musicians he’s bodyguarding

  38. Maybe it could be a crossover in which his legendary asskicking abilities make him the target of an international martial arts tournament: TAKEN VS. TEKKEN.

  39. They should turn Neeson’s character into a full on Bond clone for pt 3 and call it TAKEN, NOT STIRRED.

  40. Liam is a great actor and deserves his success. Looking back at his earlier roles, he certainly paid his dues.

  41. I’m sitting down to watch this on my DVR and I noticed something strange. I recorded this off of Cinemax and instead of showing a PG13 at the beginning they showed a TV14. I noticed this once before when Max showed TVMA instead of R. I’m wondering if when they do this it’s because they are showing a different version than the theatrical release (like an extended cut you’d get on BluRay or DVD) and therefore can’t use the MPAA rating. They don’t do it for every movie (I don’t think, if they have I haven’t noticed) so it would make sense. But if that’s the case, why don’t they advertise it? Any of you guys or girls ever notice this and/or know why they do this?

  42. Dtroyt – hmm…I just saw this on Cinemax or something too and didn’t notice if it was rated PG-13 or TV-14, but maybe they are playing the unrated version because I thought this was pretty ridiculously violent for an R-rated movie. Which is funny because with the exception of a few scenes, this movie may contain the absolute worst action scenes I’ve seen in recent memory. Nothing makes sense, nothing flows – it’s incredibly incoherent and pretty much the only thing you can make out is Neeson doing a pretty bad job of slap-fighting once in a while. People make fun of Seagal’s action scenes but at least in his movies you get the sense that this is a guy who has had training and can fight – Neeson looks lost and tired and slow here and it’s painful to watch.

    There’s good stuff – the scene with the grenades, the ending where he tries to give the bad guy a chance, etc.. I appreciate that Megaton puts a long hand-to-hand fight in at the end like he did in Colombiana – you don’t see stuff like that in many movies these days, it’s just too bad that it’s incoherent and you can’t tell what the hell is going on.

    Oh – and I also realized that with the exception of the boyfriend character (and sort of the three black ops buddies that don’t do anything) there are literally no supporting characters that actually figure in the plot. At least the first one had the police inspector and his family, the drugged-out kidnap victim, the rich client at the end, etc.. Here it’s literally the family and a bunch of faceless goons, and that’s it – no twists or turns or helpful cabbies or the types of blue-collar characters that would pop up and help Bruce Willis in the first few Die Hards. For once I actually wanted a movie to be more complicated, which is something I never thought I’d say.

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