So many key players from the 2008 hit Taken appear in this pale imitation that it’s only natural to point at the newcomer when looking for somebody to blame. Director Olivier Megaton is new to the action franchise and probably as responsible as anyone for sucking the fun out of it.
A former graffiti artist with such titles as Transporter 3 and Colombiana to his credit, the filmmaker was born Olivier Fontana and “takes his name from his birthday,” according to the Internet Movie Database. The sixth of August 1965 was the 20th anniversary of the Hiroshima detonation. That seems fitting in light of the big-screen bomb Megaton has just dropped on all of us.
How ridiculous is this sequel? Liam Neeson reprises the role of ex-CIA operative Bryan Mills. When we last met, he employed his “very particular set of skills” to rescue daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) from the clutches of ruthless Albanian sex traffickers preying on clueless tourists in France. By the time he was finished, the population of Albania had officially fallen by several percentage points.
So, at the start of Taken 2, where does the previously levelheaded former agent travel for a freelance security assignment? Istanbul, of course. You know, the teeming Turkish capital only a few hours’ drive from Albania. And whom does he invite along for a relaxing getaway a few hundred miles from his mortal enemies? Two guesses.
That’s right: his daughter and his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen) — whose remarriage, we learn, is on the rocks. What these clueless tourists fail to anticipate is that relatives of the men Mills mowed down in the first film have not only vowed to get revenge but have somehow learned every detail of the family’s itinerary, right down to the two women’s arrival time and the name of the hotel where the family is staying. Which makes kidnapping Mom and Dad a breeze.
Nonsense this preposterous can only happen in a really poorly written screenplay. So it’s a bit surprising that the guys behind the script of this second installment are the same who penned the first — producer Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen. These aren’t pea-brained people. They’re collectively responsible for a number of fine films, among them La Femme Nikita, Taps and Léon: The Professional. So we have to assume they simply weren’t trying this time.
Taken wasn’t exactly Citizen Kane, of course. It was, however, a thriller elevated by satisfying action sequences and keen psychological shadings. Having an actor of Neeson’s caliber at its center certainly didn’t hurt. It was easy to get behind the big man’s character, a resourceful fellow whose ex-wife dismisses his world-weary warnings until her world is turned upside down.
Getting behind Bryan Mills isn’t remotely as easy here. For one thing, virtually all the calamities that befall his family are his fault — it’s like he’s had a lobotomy since the last film. He might as well have enrolled Kim at Balkan U.
The new movie hasn’t a trace of its predecessor’s psychological nuances, and even the thrill of the fight scenes is gone. One gets the impression Megaton edited with a blender, chopping his footage into an incomprehensible blizzard of pistols, fists and ventilated bodies. Between the clumsy direction, the far-fetched, formulaic plotting and the clunky dialogue, this follow-up proves as silly as the first film was propulsively visceral. If you’re hoping for even a hint of the original’s appeal, allow me to quote the immortal words of its villain Marko from Tropoja: