Film, OldVenue

Review: Taken 2

Subtle, graceful and elegant. None of these words could be used to describe Taken 2 – and that is no bad thing.

Rewind to 2008: Taken, the ancestor of this latest offering, was a surprise hit, introducing us to Liam Neeson: action hero. Previously, we had only known Liam Neeson: Schindler, or Liam Neeson: tragic mentor. It was incredibly refreshing and just that little bit different.

Seeing as Taken drew over 10 times its budget at the box office ($226m), Neeson is back again for a sequel as Bryan Mills. Despite pushing 60, he is shooting everyone in sight once again.

Admittedly, it would have been ridiculous to have his daughter (Maggie Grace) “taken” again, so this time his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) has been kidnapped by the relatives of the many dead bad guys from the first film.

No one seemed to have high hopes for this instalment and it is easy to understand why. It is a hard job to sell the concept without the taken angle seeming a bit shoehorned. First his daughter, then his wife? Why doesn’t Bryan Mills just lock up everyone he knows, lest they’re taken as well?

While no one can deny that Taken 2 is a tad silly, it’s also rather enjoyable. Sometimes all you want to do is sit down and watch a tall CIA agent shoot a few people and make a few things explode in the name of family safety. Better yet, it retains a few of the darker elements that set the first apart from the crowd.

The film opens with the burial of the people murdered by Mills in the 2008 film, such mourning something of a rarity in actions films where you are taught to stand side-by-side with the hero. As an opening that builds empathy for antagonists, it very much works.

Strangely, Neeson’s performance doesn’t quite work to begin with. He seems almost resigned to his ex-wife’s kidnapping and all the violence that follows -that is until one line of dialogue sells his entire character, evoking memories of the original’s reliance on its incredible, infamous monologue.

Here, Mills tells the main villain Murad Hoxha (played very effectively by Rade Šerbedžija) that he’s just tired of all the fighting and the violence. We really believe him too. He has the presence of an old boxer, sagging around the edges.

Maggie Grace also ups her game for the sequel, showing a fair bit of emotional scarring after the events of Taken, and taking part in a few of the action set-pieces. She is no longer just a screaming damsel and has clearly evolved between the films.

The main problem with Taken 2 is found in its certification. Whereas Taken was a 15, this sequel is merely a soft 12A. It just feels wrong. There’s too much brutal violence for the average 12-year-old, and it feels as though it was shot to be a 15 before being cut into a 12A for the younger crowd – and a bigger payday.

It is a real shame, and we are left to wonder what could’ve been. To the action diehards, here’s hoping we’ll be treated to an extended cut on DVD, and for the rest, when it comes to shoot-em-ups, you could do a lot worse than Taken 2.

Watch the trailer:

21/10/2012

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oliverpartington