Monday, 1 October 2012
FILM REVIEW: TAKEN 2
Lightning rarely strikes in the same place twice, and capturing it in a bottle is even harder to do. Yet Hollywood producers insist on attempting to replicate the success of an unlikely hit by rolling out a sequel, one which so often overlooks – or simply forgets – what it was that made the original a surprise hit in the first instance.
Taken 2 is a perfect case in point. In 2008 (and later in the U.S.), Taken, about a former CIA operative who goes on a killing spree across Paris in pursuit of his teenage daughter and the Albanian sex traffickers who kidnapped her, became an unsuspecting hit.
The success of Taken owed a great deal to Liam Neeson (as said enraged father, Bryan Mills) going Charles Bronson on the bad guys' asses. “I will find you, and I will kill you”, he promises his daughter's captors, and boy, did he keep that promise. Sure it was ultra violent and xenophobic, but Taken was also a guilty pleasure par excellence.
Not so Taken 2. Despite the presence of Neeson, the same creative team (co-writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen), and a budget more than triple that of the first film, Taken 2 is an uninspired and exhilaration-free re-tread of a slightly similar premise.
Trading Paris for Istanbul, Taken 2 sees Mills (Neeson) (along with his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen)) kidnapped by the father (Rada Serbedzija) of one of the slain men responsible for the abduction of Mills' daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace).
And it is Kim, under clandestine instructions from daddy dearest, who is the hero for the first half of the film; lobbing hand grenades with scant regard for public safety (tell me again why middle easterners don't like Americans?) and helping Mills escape. Mills then dusts off his fists of fury and single-handedly sets about reducing Instanbul's Albanian community.
Of course subtlety and nuance are not what one expects from a sequel to a film like Taken, nor from a director with the surname Megaton (Olivier, M. replacing Pierre Morel). But would a modicum of wit have been too much to ask? And no, blatantly stealing music from the soundtrack of Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive (2011) – a far superior man-on-a-mission-to-protect-loved-ones-at-all-costs film – does not count.
You would think that a filmmaker such as Besson, with a bigger budget and almost four years to work on the screenplay, could have provided more bang for the 80 million bucks, but even the punches are literally pulled in Taken 2; the fight scenes are highly-edited and the blood-letting is concealed, no doubt to reduce the censor's rating and improve box office returns.
Messrs Besson, Kamen and Neeson will have to promise to do better to ensure audiences return for a third Taken -- which is probably already in the planning stages (every film has to be a trilogy nowadays) and intended (predictably) to be released in 3D -- and they could start by returning to what made the first film so sinfully good and eschewing what made this outing so forgettably bad.