Saturday, October 6, 2012
Writer and producer Luc Besson has said that the latest Liam Neeson abduction opus “Taken 2” (*** out of ****) won’t spawn a sequel. Nevertheless, the prolific Parisian filmmaker might whistle a different tune after he scrutinizes the box office that this handy, white-knuckled thriller has drummed up. Since it debuted Friday, October 5th, “Taken 2” has taken twice as much as its exciting predecessor coined on its own opening day. Despite Besson’s assurances to the contrary, co-scripter Robert Mark Kamen and he have left “Taken 2” wide open for another sequel. Meantime, little has changed since 2009 when director Pierre Morel’s “Taken” pitted retired CIA operative Bryan Mills against an Albanian-run white slavery ring operating out of Paris. This time out, Besson and Kamen have doubled the derring-do. Not only do the villains want to nab the daughter again, but they also want the father as well as his estranged wife. Director Olivier Megaton, who helmed “Transporter 3” and “Columbiana,” doesn’t let anything stand in the way of Neeson as he shoots, stabs, and slugs his way through even more Albanians in this formulaic shoot’em up that never squanders a second of its pared down 91-minute running time. Although it isn't as suspenseful as the original “Taken,” “Taken 2” serves up more than enough outlandish action with some very obnoxious villains, including distinguished Croatian actor Rade Serbedzija, who take liberties with Neeson’s co-star Famke Janssen. Chief among the assets of this sequel are its atmospheric Istanbul locations, particularly the Suleymaniye Mosque, the Grand Bazaar and the Bosphorus. Maggie Grace sprints across some impressive Turkish architecture with villains nipping at her heels while our hero plunges into some claustrophobic settings in search of his ex-wife.
“Taken 2” opens as the coffins containing the corpses of the white slavers that Bryan Mills mowed down in "Taken" are taken back to Albania for burial. During the funeral, Murad Krasniqi (Rade Serbedzija of “Batman Begins”) vows to wreak vengeance on Mills for slaying his good-for-nothing son as well as the sons of his dastardly relatives. As it turns out, Bryan (Liam Nesson of “The A-Team”) has just completed a security job in Istanbul when his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen of “GoldenEye”) and his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace of “Lockout”) surprise him with their presence. Although Lenore and Bryan are divorced, this doesn’t keep Kim from playing Cupid when she sends them off together for their own sight-seeing tour of Istanbul. The fiendish villains aren’t far behind. They strike at the motel where Kim is splashing about in a swimming pool. Surprisingly, they fail to nab Kim because her fleet-footed, fast-thinking father is a couple of steps ahead of them. Bryan alerts his daughter and tries to pack Lenore out of harm's way, too. Of course, complications arise. Murad’s well-armed minions capture both Bryan and Lenore and hide them in the bazaar. Since he knows a thing or two about handling hard cases, Bryan isn’t on ice long before he retaliates and takes down one Albanian after another with extreme prejudice. Predictably, Bryan saves the day, but not before the villains slash Lenore and suspend her upside down so that gravity is about to drain her of life, love, and the pursuit of happiness in a mere 30 minutes. None of this will do, and Bryan figures a way out of his predicament, but he cannot rescue his ex-wife as quickly as he would prefer. The villains haul Lenore off again, and our hero has to second guess them using what he saw and heard during their initial abduction to track them down.
Mind you, most of the repugnant villains behave like ten-pins in a bowling alley that our hero knocks down with absurd ease. What sets “Taken 2” apart from the conventional kidnap caper is Bryan’s method of locating himself and his wife. After she escapes from her would-be abductors, Kim scrambles across rooftops slinging grenades so her father can triangulate his location for her and bring her to his rescue. She delivers an automatic pistol to him, and he starts slinging lead with no end in sight. When director Olivier Megaton isn’t showing things from the perspective of the father, he stages several snap, crackle, pop action scenes that will make you squirm and wince. Make no mistake, “Taken 2” could have been twice as bloody as an R-rated thriller, but PG-13 nail-biters pull in bigger audiences. “Taken 2” will have you begging for a third!