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Luc Besson’s sequel to the highly popular and critically beloved ‘Taken’ (2008) premiered Friday, October 5, 2012. It features the same gruff main character, Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) except this time he is rescuing his wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen) with the help of his teenage daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). However, sadly, ‘Taken 2’ joins the pantheon of disappointing sequels with titles like ‘Mission Impossible II’ (2000), ‘Batman and Robin’ (1997), and ‘Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance’ (2012). It suffers from lifeless dialogue, little to no characterization, lousy fight choreography, and dull chase sequences.
Mild spoilers ahead.
This time around, Bryan Mills and his family are living their lives as normal. Kim is trying to get her driver’s license and has a new boyfriend, much to Bryan’s chagrin. Lenore has separated from her husband Stuart, so she and her daughter are having a rough time when Stuart cancels the trip they had planned on taking for months. Bryan offers to let them come with him to Istanbul for a few days and the girls surprise him by showing up.
Meanwhile, the relatives of the Albanian sex traffickers Bryan killed in the first film have come together to seek revenge on Bryan. They torture Jean Claude, a French policeman Bryan knew, for information and find out he’s in Istanbul with his family. They plan to kidnap the entire family, bring them back to Albania, and kill them in retribution for their dead family members.
Bryan and Lenore go out into the city and the Albanians follow them. Bryan quickly catches on and instructs Lenore to leave while he leads them away. However, the men catch up with both of them so Bryan calls Kim and tells her to return to his hotel room and hide from the other men coming for her. The Albanians take Bryan and Lenore hostage and explain that they both will be tortured and killed for revenge.
Kim manages to hide from the Albanians and Bryan calls again. This time, Kim insists that she can help find them and free them so Bryan reluctantly agrees to tell her how to find them. From there, it is a race to find them before the Albanians can find her.
‘Taken’ has gained a massive following of fans because of its sharp dialogue, excellent fight scenes, realistic situations, and infinitely cool chase sequences. Everything about Bryan’s journey felt immediate and hit home with audiences because of the characterization of Bryan Mills as a devoted father.
The sequel did not deliver on any of the things that make the first movie so fantastic. It fumbles with every single element it is given and suffers from a massive lack of creativity.
First, the dialogue is forgettable, weak, and does not enhance anything. In the first film, the relationship between Bryan, Kim, and Lenore is established well. The writing for ‘Taken 2’ does not follow through on developing these characters over the course of their ordeal. The worst casualties are Lenore and Kim, who both are nothing more than cringing burdens for Bryan to lug around as he does all the work.
Second, the characterization for the women in this film is borderline insulting. Kim is at least given a couple of scenes to toughen up but she still cries and screams like a child and it is not a good representation for girls. Lenore is unconscious for half of the film and when she is awake, all she does is cry. She is never given a moment to take control of the situation or even take a shot at her kidnappers. This is especially insulting considering Famke Janssen is known most for her role as Jean Grey in the X-Men films—who was an intelligent force of nature as well as a beautiful yet troubled woman. Janssen’s presence here is a waste and it is sad to see as a result.
Third, the bad guys in the first film were at least competent. In the sequel, they are all shiftless morons with delusions of being a threat. Only one of them manages to present a legitimate threat to Bryan and his wrath. Even then, the fight scene is about two minutes long at best. It is disappointing because the villains in the first film were dangerous and Bryan nearly dies several times before he gets to his daughter. Here, Bryan is clearly a better fighter and shooter than every single man he faces. Thus, there is little to no tension over the course of the film.
Fourth, the lack of creativity is astounding. There are no surprises to be had at all, from fight scenes to dialogue to the ending. The script is littered with tired clichés and misuses its wonderful actors over and over. Liam Neeson’s stellar performance during his speech to Kim’s kidnapper in the first film is what made ‘Taken’ such a sleeper hit. In ‘Taken 2′, he says nothing of interest in the entire movie and it is hard to believe since Neeson is by far one of the most charismatic actors working today.
‘Taken 2’ simply misunderstands the purpose of a sequel. Sequels are supposed to enhance what has already been given to the audience. It is supposed to build on the relationships established earlier, create new problems and new solutions, and put the characters through fresh trials to prove their worth. Do yourself a favor and just watch the first one instead.