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Review: Taken 2

“Because I am sick and tired of it all.”

This is the most genuine line of dialogue in the entirety of Taken 2. After tearing apart half of Istanbul to rescue his estranged wife and daughter, Bryan Mills, ex-CIA agent and ultimate overprotective dad, gazes into the eyes of the man who orchestrated their abduction–the father of the kidnapper that Bryan tortured and electrocuted in the first film’s most memorable and chilling sequence–and asks him to end the cycle of revenge: “[If your other sons come after me and my family], then I will kill them, too. You have the power to stop that.” Liam Neeson’s delivery is absolutely flawless, every word dripping with weariness, frustration, even desperation.

Perhaps he drew upon his own exasperation with the lackluster screenplay.

My only gripe with Taken was the somewhat sappy ending. The script unambiguously “sided” with Bryan, but also implicitly acknowledged that he was crossing certain moral boundaries; considering the path of blood and destruction he left in his wake, I found the apparent lack of consequences… perplexing. The premise of Taken 2 attempts to address this oversight: the bad guys are vengeful relatives, and we even glimpse Kim grappling with the anxiety brought on by her traumatic experiences abroad; unfortunately, director Olivier Megaton botches the execution. Badly.

For me, the movie’s credibility evaporated as soon as the Big Bad opened his mouth to deliver a bloated Motive Rant. The previous film lacked a strong central villain, instead casting the flesh trade itself as the antagonist; this allowed for a tighter focus on our protagonist’s descent into darkness. Introducing a mustache-twirling evil mastermind feels like a step backwards–and the story keeps on stumbling in that direction as we rendezvous with Bryan, now little more than an obsessive-compulsive self-parody. Neeson looks lost in these early scenes, light years away from his superb work in this year’s The Grey, and Megaton’s obvious discomfort with directing actors only exacerbates matters. These blemishes become slightly less pronounced as the action shifts into high gear (giving Neeson the opportunity to show off his impressive boxing skills), but if you must see Taken 2, arrive at least twenty minutes late; otherwise, you’ll find yourself begging the nearest person to plunge screwdrivers into your ears.

[Originally written October 7, 2012.]

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