While working in Istanbul, formidable former CIA operative Bryan Mills (Neeson) is joined by his ex-wife Lenore (Janssen) and daughter Kim (Grace). However, with an Albanian gangster (Serbedzija) plotting revenge for the previous slaughter of his men in Paris, Mills and Lenore are taken, leaving Kim on her own. Again, it’s up to Mills to save his family…
Taken still divides opinion. To some, it’s a plotless, xenophobic Euro-thriller which is only watchable due to Liam Neeson’s penchant for growling ultimatums. Hell, even the man himself admitted that he expected it to go straight to DVD. To others, though, it’s an enjoyably violent actioner which made a bona fide action star out of Neeson, and a cult hero out of his alter-ego Bryan Mills, the protective Jason Bourne-like parent (The Bourne Paternity?) who has a particular set of skills. This sequel, however, from the brilliantly-named Olivier Megaton (who replaces Pierre Morel as director), is likely to please neither group.
For the former, the plot is marginally less slight and not as unapologetically basic (there’s even a brief chat about Bryan’s obsessive nature), but there’s still little to convince. For the latter group, the violence is toned down in order to secure a 12A rating, meaning that those who loved Taken (which was a 15 with an 18 director’s cut) will miss the graphic brutality. Pinching a tune or two from Drive (including the Chromatics’ tension-providing Tick Of The Clock), some sequences are effective (see any time Bryan is on the phone), but others are just plain ridiculous. See, for example, the manner in which Kim is instructed to detonate grenades in the city centre so her Dad can hear how far away she is.
Again, Neeson’s intense glowering is the reason to watch (Bryan Mills really deserves a better movie) but the writers miss a huge opportunity by not providing him with another quotable ultimatum (like the original’s “If you let her go now, that’ll be the end of it”). Happily though, for anyone worried that Kim would be saving the day with her parents nabbed (Taken 2 really should be called A Particular Set Of Mills), don’t worry, as Bryan eventually finds his leather jacket. Elsewhere, familiar supporting face Rade Serbedzija is well cast as the antagonist and Famke Janssen is fine despite being underwritten, while Maggie Grace is given more to do.
While some viewers find the original Taken as a plotless Euro-thriller and other defend it as a modern action classic, Taken 2 is likely to please neither. Despite how utterly watchable Neeson is.