★ ★ ★ 1/2 out of 5 buckets | Matinee or DVD
Rated: PG-13 Intense sequences of violence ad action, and some sensuality
Release Date: October 5, 2012
Runtime: 1 hour 32 minutes
Director: Oliver Megaton
Writers: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen
Cast: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Leland Orser, Jon Gries, D.B. Sweeney, Luke Girmes, Rade Serbedzija
SYNOPSIS: In Istanbul, retired CIA operative Bryan Mills and his wife are taken hostage by the father of a kidnapper Mills killed while rescuing his daughter.
REVIEW: Director Oliver Megaton, known for Transporter 3 and Colombiana, takes over directing duties from the original film's director Pierre Morel. Writers Luc Beeson and Robert Mark Kamen come together again to continue the story of the retired CIA operative Bryan Mills who wants to be a good provider and a better family man.
Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson, Battleship), faithful to his word, stays close to both his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace, Lockout) and his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen, X-Men: The Last Stand) after Bryan and Kim's return from her kidnapping in Paris. Bryan keeps to a schedule to help Kim with her third driver's test, and deal with a new situation where Kim is getting intimate with a boy named Jamie (Luke Grimes, The Wait). When Lenore's and her husband's relationship starts to fail apart on the eve of a family trip to China, Bryan invites them to visit him in Istanbul, Turkey, after a security job with Sam (Leland Orser,Pearl Harbor), Casey (Jon Gries, Napoleon Dynamite), and Bernie (D.B. Sweeney,Miracle at St. Anna) finishes. While entertaining his family in the hotel and on the streets of Istanbul, Bryan is discovered by Murad Krasniqi (Rade Serbedzija, X-Men: First Class), the father of one of the men Bryan tortured and killed when tracking his daughter in Paris.
Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen pick up Bryan Mills' story some time after it left off from Kim and Bryan's return from Europe. Now a doting father, making amends for years of neglecting his wife and daughter, Bryan still takes the odd security job with his team as long as it doesn't take him away from his family for too long. When he rescued his daughter from slave traders in Paris, he proved to himself that he needed the support of his family as much as they needed him and his special skills. For Bryan Mills, he is singularly dedicated both to his family – in his own way – and to whatever job he has undertaken. Like Lenore says, Bryan is like a dog with a bone.
Set in the exotic locale of Istanbul, Taken 2 takes the audience through the cobblestoned streets, the clay tiled roofs, and the ferried waterways of a city that served as the fulcrum of war between Europe and Asia. From the posh marbled hotels to the crowded bazaar markets, director Oliver Megaton and his cameras speed through the narrow streets, giving chase and following the action in pursuit of a hunted man and his family. The crescent moon and star flagged city provides a picturesque and beautiful backdrop that offsets the shear violence that rings through its cobbled corridors.
Liam Neeson cuts an imposing figure, on screen and in real life. Towering over most, Neeson stands out in a crowd. On screen, his character Mills is head and shoulders above the crowds of the citizens of Istanbul. Either being hunted or, turning the tables, becoming the hunter, Neeson is not a man to be trifled with. While some of the action is handled by Neeson’s long-time stuntman, Neeson is dead center of all of the gunplay and close hand-to-hand combat. Efficient and effective, Neeson’s style is minimal, but movie realistic violent and brutal. At a Q&A before the film, Neeson admitted that he a man closing in on sixty. To an uproarious applause, the audience responded that they all think that Neeson can still kick plenty of Albania thug butt. When Neeson is chasing after the bad guys on foot or clearing the corners of a villain safehouse, he looks a little tired but, smartly, the story includes his fatigue as an important element to the tale. There are some cringe-worthy fight sequences that will delight, and some metal-crunching chases that will leave you grabbing for the arms of the chair or the person you brought to the theater.
Neeson’s Mills is bad-ass cool as a well-trained man with a 'certain set of skills'. You can’t help but root for the lone man just trying to keep his family together and safe – at all costs. The Albanian mastermind Murad played by Rade Serbedzija, whose character lost his own son to Mills’ torturous methods from the first film, may not be able to go toe-to-toe with Mills but he does have at his disposal a small army of gun-toting men with the same desire to bring vengeful justice against Mills and his family. Maggie Grace as Kim Mills grows up a little bit as she would rather help her father than sit idly by. Famke Janssen has an expanded role as Bryan's ex-wife Lenore, providing a possible renewal of relations with her assassin-trained ex-husband. Additonal characters that deserved more screen-time, or maybe their own film, Sam (Leland Orser), Casey (Jon Gries), and Bernie (D.B. Sweeney) should get into a little security firm trouble that Bryan may need to get them off of.
Following the same format as the first film, Taken 2 creates a exciting and appropriate follow-up story to the action-thriller hit that rejuvenated Liam Neeson's career as a Hollywood tough guy. The fight sequences, close quarters combat, booming gunfire, and city chase scenes carry on the same tradition while propelling the franchise forward. Some of the pace slows as there are more lulls between action than in the first film, but Megaton's direction from Besson and Kamen's story will make fans happy.
Taken 2 is a fine autumn action film that stands out from a crowd of October dramas and horror suspense. If you are in need of a man with a 'certain set of skills', Liam Neeson should be your first choice!
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