Luc Besson brings back the ultimate 60-year-old preventer, Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), last seen gunning through Paris hunting down the sex-trafficking Albanians that kidnapped his teenage daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). He saved her of course, but because Bryan killed so many men, the families belonging to the pile of dead bodies want revenge. So much so that they are willing to dispatch more of their cold-blooded killer family members to go after Bryan, Maggie, and Bryan’s ex-wife, Lenny (Famke Janssen) while on vacation in Instabul.
Bryan may fend off more Albanians for the Luc Besson-produced cash-grab sequel Taken 2, but the film ignores the whole ticking-clock kidnapping angle that made the first film suspenseful. Taken was no masterpiece, but it was wholly effective. Taken 2 approaches the idea of a follow-up in a semi-interesting way—rather than rehashing his daughter’s kidnapping—Mills must fight vengeful pursuers that abduct him and his ex-wife, while his daughter’s safety also hangs over hot coals. There’s no 4-day deadline. The problem? The change doesn’t work.
By the midway point, Taken 2 is a painful slog to watch. Keep in mind, this is only a 90-minute movie. The filmmakers simply have no idea what to do with the narrative. Mills and Lenny get kidnapped. Kim—believe it—must rescue her parents. Then Mills must leave his wife behind to save his daughter. Then Mills has to return and save his wife. The villains exist to be villains. The chases exist for chasing’s sake. The gunplay and fistfights occur because they are expected to. The filmmakers throw in obstacles—such as the slight slitting of Lenore’s throat and her being hung upside down with only 30 minutes to live—in an attempt to give the film its predecessor’s sense of urgency. But the obstacles are quickly resolved.
Rather than Mills having the singular forward momentum of the previous film, he runs around Instabul in a strained back-and-forth pursuit. The editing doesn’t help matters either. Director Olivier Megaton is notorious for having an obnoxiously sloppy visual style. You can’t understand any of the action’s choreography—and it looks about as atrocious as his previous efforts Colombiana and Transporter 3. Mr. Megaton, I don’t know who you are and I don’t know what you want. But if you come back for Taken 3, I will not see it. I will not rent it. I will not catch it on cable TV.
While this sequel had the opportunity to not be a simple retread by embracing the villain revenge angle, Taken 2 can’t overcome the dumping ground storytelling, directing, and editing. Poor Liam Neeson is about as engaging and convincing as he was the last time out, but this time even he can’t save us.