Taken 2 may be one of the worst sequels I’ve seen in a long time, which is disappointing considering how great the first Taken was. The problem with Taken 2 is that it’s essentially the same movie, except this time it’s a family affair. The thrill is gone, and the audience is left with a few familiar one-liners and subpar action sequences.
Former CIA agent Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) now spends most of his time teaching his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) how to parallel park. When he’s not spying on Kim or consoling his newly separated ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen), he’s having a guys’ night in with other retired agents. While Bryan enjoys his newfound ordinariness, the father (Rade Serbedzija) of one of the men he murdered promises vengeance. When Bryan convinces Lenore and Kim to visit him in Istanbul, he has no idea that a ruthless Albanian gang plans to kidnap and kill them all.
It has been four years since Taken was released, and unfortunately Liam Neeson is not as agile as he used to be, which might explain why so few action sequences involve hand-to-hand combat. In this film, Neeson’s weapon of choice is a regular ol’ handgun. Rather than showcase his martial arts skills, Neeson simply kills each bad guy with one shot. There’s never any tension as to whether or not he’s going to fail.
However, I was pleasantly surprised by how much more I liked the character of Kim this time around. In Taken 2 she’s determined and not as easily intimidated. Although Kim’s repeatedly failed her driver’s test, she’s able to maneuver her way through Istanbul during the film’s most exhilarating action sequence, proving to her father and the audience that she’s capable of holding her own.
Famke Janssen’s Lenore doesn’t have the same opportunity to prove her worth. Instead, Lenore is either unconscious or crying for most of Taken 2. Unlike the first film, which portrayed her in an unflattering light, she’s now softer and more fragile. And although she’s in the middle of a nasty separation, it’s hard to buy her complete reversal, as well as her renewed affection for Neeson’s Bryan.
Looking back, I think the film could have benefited from a time frame like in Taken. Having only 72 hours to find his daughter gave the film a sense of urgency, which helped move the film along from location to location seamlessly. In the sequel, all of the film’s events take place a few blocks away. There’s no change of scenery or pressing circumstance.
It was also difficult to get carried away by the film because of the laughter from the audience. If ever Neeson said one of his infamous lines from the first film, people in the audience would start laughing and cheering.
I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a sequel more than I did the original, which suggests to me why sequels are really made— for an easy, guaranteed profit. Now I can no longer watch Taken without thinking about its disappointing sequel, and that’s a little sad.