|"I got a telephone call from Istanbul..."|
Directed by Olivier Megaton
Produced by Luc Besson
Written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
Starring Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Rade Serbedzija
**1/2 (Taken - ***1/2)
"I will find you [again]. I will kill you [again]." Liam Neeson returns as retired spy Bryan Mills. This time around he and his ex-wife Lenore (Janssen) are taken in Istanbul by the father (Serbedzija) of one of the criminals he murdered in the previous film. Although Bryan and Lenore are cornered, their daughter Kim (Grace) manages to avoid capture, and, with Bryan's aid on a smuggled mini-phone, she tracks her parents down. Once Kim gets to Bryan, he starts to do what he does best: kill people. The escape doesn't run smoothly, and he fails to get his ex-wife out. With his daughter safe at the U.S. embassy, Bryan will have to go back, find the man again and, well, you know the drill.
Neeson is the perfect action hero. He's an actor first, which easily puts him above genre regulars, such as Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Willis. He proves it again here, giving a performance unworthy of an uninspired sequel on repeat. This film is pure escapism, but not at its best like the original. It relies too much on the previous setup of the first film, and this hurts the follow-up. Instead of being thrilled by his quest to save his loved ones, we know that - and how - Neeson will triumph. That he will kill the bad guys. That he will keep his family together. That he will continue to cook steaks with the guys for the rest of his life. (Yes, that scene is in here too.) Aside from Neeson, who gives us someone to root for, Janssen and Grace turn in acceptable supporting performances, along with Serbedzija as the main villain. Though the film doesn't skimp on the action, the lack of originality makes it less fun. Sure, we're back for more, but it's more of the same. Not to mention the film's most distracting element: it uses two recognizable songs that Drive used to much better effect ("A Real Hero" by College ft. Electric Youth and "Tick of the Clock" by The Chromatics). While it's still a fun ride, the original succeeds almost everywhere this film fails.