'Taken 2' turns into letdown from original

atomictown.comOctober 8, 2012 

The first Taken is one of those movies that makes movie critics look pretty worthless.

"Hey, professional movie-talkin' guy," you might say. "Why is Taken so much better than most action movies?" And the critic can only respond, "Well, it moved really fast. But in the good way. Like, it felt like it couldn't slow down, even if you tied it to one of those drag race parachutes, which would be hard, because it's a movie, not a car." The critic gazes at his shoelaces for several seconds. "Look, Liam Neeson chops people in the throat like all movie long, OK? Just... just go see it."

That's really what it boils down to. The French probably have a term for this, but it had a certain I don't know what. An energy. A liveliness. Except for Neeson's victims, who had rather more deadiness. In any event, it was good. People liked it. People liked it so much it got a sequel, which is now here in the form of a movie called Taken 2. A movie that only serves to illustrate how special the first movie was.

Liam Neeson's rescue of his daughter left countless kidnappers dead. Now, Rade Serbedzija, father of one of the dead, has vowed revenge. His opportunity arrives when Neeson takes a security gig in Istanbul — and takes ex-wife Famke Janssen and daughter Maggie Grace with him.

Serbedzija's men capture Neeson and Janssen on the street. But Grace is still out there. With Neeson's guidance, she may be able to help set her parents free.

So, yeah. Taken 2: Take Harder. No, wait a minute. Taken 2: The Taker Strikes Back. Sorry, had to get that out of my system. Anyway, Taken 2 is no Taken. If Taken was full of magic, fairy dust, and bottled lightning--a modern-day Beastmaster--then Taken 2 is Beastmaster 2. They took a vibrant fantasy world and moved the damn thing to Los Angeles!

Wait, Taken already started in LA. What I mean is that the magic is gone. Sure, the same characters are back. Except for all the ones Neeson planted six feet under, because this isn't a zombie series (yet!). The plot ties in rather neatly with the first movie. Also like the original, it is something that could plausibly happen, in that Neeson crashes exactly zero motorcycles into enemy helicopters.

But the sequel has a different director. So I'm going to proceed to blame him for the fact that mysterious energy has gone missing. That's seriously the only major difference. That and the fact Taken 2 is more of a generic action flick than its predecessor. It's a little slicker. A little less down and dirty. Director Olivier Megaton shoots like the homeless man's Paul Greengrass, employing a rapid-cutting shakycam that makes all Neeson's throat-chops impossibly hard to follow.

OK, so there are several differences. All for the worse. On the plus side, Taken 2 has some cool plotting to it, particularly the stuff Neeson does after he is kidnapped himself. The dude is unstoppable. No matter how much money Taken 2 makes, there will not be a Taken 3, because the only way to make it believable would be to show 90 straight minutes of grief-stricken Albanians nuking Neeson from space. No way they ever get in punching range of him again.

That cool plotting, however, winds up in a silly and anticlimactic finale. While the writers have a potentially interesting situation — are the bad guys wrong to want revenge after Neeson killed so many of their sons? — they don't really do anything with it. Besides waste it, which I suppose is a thing. For fans of the first movie, Taken 2 is probably worth a watch. Barely. But you're going to be disappointed.

Grade: C+

Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It is playing at the Carmike 12, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

* Contact Ed Robertson at edwrobertson@gmail.com. His fiction is available on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and elsewhere.

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