By: Henry J. Fromage (Six Pack) –
The formula for success for the first Taken was a simple one. Give Liam Neeson a reason to be angry, then have him sow destruction through the underworld of a beautiful foreign location, showing us as much as a PG-13 rating will allow. Taken accomplishes this beautifully, producing a gem of badassery that is endlessly rewatchable.
Please sir, may I have some more?
At first glance, producer and co-writer Luc Besson had the right idea- keep things simple. This time Neeson is in Istanbul on vacation with his daughter (Maggie Grace) AND ex-wife (Famke Janssen). Turns out the Albanian mafia don’t take kindly to someone murdering a hearty helping of their sons and brothers, so they try to kidnap the family and bring them back to Albania for their whole village to take revenge on. This makes Neeson angry. You won’t like Neeson when he’s angry.
Liam Neeson elevates everything he’s in, even when the material’s pretty damn hard to elevate (see: Clash of the Titans, Battleship). There are a few clever touches here and there, and I particularly liked the driver’s license test callback during the inevitable car chase sequence, even if I question why a 29 year old woman still doesn’t have her license (yeah, Grace is a bit old for this role).
She was in the original cast of Lost, for crying out loud
So this is how you screw up a simple formula: ignore it. I couldn’t give less of a shit about Liam Neeson: Family Man, especially when it comes at the expense of Liam Neeson: Badass. Ten minutes or so (like in Taken) is ok. A third of your 91 minute runtime is not. Also Famke Janseen is a grating, tear-stained bag of useless.
New Besson beau Olivier Megaton (Columbiana) takes over directing duties from Pierre Morel. Since Morel’s last effort was the stinker From Paris With Love, that might be justified, but at least the man could shoot an action sequence clearly. I’d say Megaton is a Michael Bay-aping, blue and orange filter-abusing hack, but that’d be doing a disservice to Bay.
Megaton’s most unforgivable offense is his fight scene cutting. The man can’t hold a shot for more than two seconds, and every fight becomes a jumble of cartoony foley effects and PG-13- friendly angles that imply instead of showing violence. Morel was able to show hardcore action while preserving his rating, but Megaton either can’t do that or can’t resist shitting all over a decent franchise with his “style.”
Cheesy dialogue and credibility-straining situations are par for the course of movies like this, but seriously, the best way you can think of for Neeson to locate himself is having a twiggy girl limp-wrist grenades into a crowded city for daddy’s Neesonar to hone in on? How does that not lead to an arrest within minutes? And what is a bodyguard doing with grenades in the first place?
And how in holy hell is an American embassy in TURKEY so poorly guarded that a taxi can bull-rush its way through its security cordon? Especially since just stopping beforehand and announcing you’re American citizens would have accomplished the same thing without, you know, the near certainty of being machine gunned to oblivion.
I was originally just going with five beers for this one, but the longer I thought about it the more I hated it. What do you call this effect? A movie that shrinks on you? That’s it, Taken 2 = Shrinkage.
Take a Drink: for every minute that Neeson is not kicking ass. Prepare to be hammered.
Take a Drink: for every muddled action scene.
Take a Drink: whenever a grenade is thrown.
Do a Shot: whenever Maggie Grace ignores her phone
Do a Double: when Neeson says “We’re going to be Taken”