Review: Taken 2
|REVIEWS - MOVIES|
A sequel to a Liam Neeson action film? Now you're Taken the piss...
There's an unwritten formula in comedy, taken from a wonderful quote by American comedienne Carol Burnett: Tragedy + Time = Comedy. Totally ambiguous yet blissfully important, mismanagement of said formula can ultimately ruin a comedian's set and, like the quote itself, condemn the performance to certain death. The same, of course, can be extended to film.
Now, as anyone who's watched the original Taken will know, there's always a bit of tragedy (ironically, that's the fuel spurring on Neeson's captors in Taken 2), and after four years since its original release there's certainly been time. But there's a significant, undeniable problem...this is not meant to be a comedy. So, as myself and over 250 reviewers sat through another helping of Liam Neeson's now iconic grunting, grimacing, and grappling, it seemed rather peculiar that the room was filled more commonly with laughter, rather than gasps or eerie silences; but after some reflection, it all became clear...
Without even realising it, Taken 2 has become a spoof of its own concept.
You see, Taken was a surprise hit, not just for its cast but for critics and audiences worldwide. Neeson's character Bryan Mills was as serious as they come, a highly trained agent with "a very particular set of skills" (as he put it himself), and the conviction shown by Neeson to the role gave it a degree of legitimacy that appealed to audience and critic alike. Unfortunately, when presented with a second helping, everything starts to feel a little worn, with holes appearing throughout.
Where we once idolised, now we laugh. Where first there was atmosphere, now there is humour. Taken became a cult favourite because of Mills' quotability (who hasn't uttered at least one of his memorable quotes; my favourite being "Now's not the time for dick measuring, Stuart!"); but there's a limit, and Taken 2 has exceeded it. In the same way that one has to laugh at David Caruso's entendre-filled portrayal of Horatio Caine, Neeson's seriousness has becomes laughable...but in a sort of 'If we didn't laugh, he'd be very odd' kind of way.
Acutally, I've got it! Bryan Mills has become a less funny version of De Niro's Jack Byrnes in Meet the Parents - the super-secret crime-fighter attempting to reinvent himself as a family man. Whereas De Niro's Byrnes worked as a polar opposite to director Jay Roach's otherwise light-hearted cast, Neeson's Mills just feels out of place - like the Jedi forced into early retirement. As with any crime-fighter - whether mythical or merely fictional - the job ultimately catches up with him. There's no room for this 'happy-go-lucky' family nonsense - and, while he may indeed appear victorious, it's the way in which his victory is fathomed that provides unexpected humour.
The fact of the matter is this...Liam Neeson is no spring chicken; and unlike the ageing action heroes of Chan, Li, Stallone and co, he's showing his age. As a result, Taken 2 is limited to one per person fight scenes, which, if I'm honest, is slow, sluggish, and relatively boring. Honestly, I could feel the pain experienced by Mills when he realised that he'd have to engage in hand-to-hand combat instead of simply shooting them. It's the sort of pain felt by a fat child when he hears that his Physical Education lesson will consist of a cross-country run, just a little angrier. Of course, Taken wasn't known for its ground-breaking fight sequences, but the little to no effort shown here is sort of embarrassing. Furthermore, when you consider that this is a film written and produced by legendary director Luc Besson - who, courtesy of District 13 (watch it), which he also wrote and produced, became a sort of pioneer for exuberant combat - one cannot help but feel let down.
Worse still is the lack of physical connection you make to any of those on screen. In Taken 2, Mills is confronted by the father of a kidnapper he killed whilst rescuing his daughter, and subsequent family members of his hit list. On paper, their kidnap is fuelled by anger and loss; powerful emotions that can often have deadly consequences. However, other than a minimal reminder of their plight - courtesy of a mass burial during the film's introduction - nothing more is said. Any sympathy that we may have felt towards their loss is quashed because director Olivier Megaton and producer Besson fail to invest any time in the backstory.
The film has, quite obviously, suffered horribly at the hands of the editing team. Scenes often feel broken, undercut, or, during fight scenes, cramped. Have we not learnt anything from Cine Asia? Keep. It. Simple. Fight the need to fill every fight scene with 50 different angles. And above all, just let it flow. Instead, I feel we've been made to watch a 2.5/3 hour film in just 90 minutes.
Taken 2 isn't a terrible film. In fact, it's enjoyable on a number of occasions, with good performances (although I struggled to accept Maggie Grace (Kim) as a high school student (she's 29)), a tight runtime (which, you could argue, is too tight), and of course violence aplenty; garnished with an ever-watchable dose of Neeson. However, it's not an original film, or even an original outing. If anything, it's the same film changed slightly...like editing someone else's assignment and trying to pass it off as your own. It's like there's a Taken blueprint that must be kept too - family kidnapped, a foreign country for location, and multiple deaths to those who wronged him.
Those who will enjoy Taken 2 include:
- People who thought The Hangover: Part II was both hilarious and original.
- Those who love Liam Neeson, and are willing to turn a blind eye to a film's numerous failings because of his involvement. And I mean numerous.
- Anyone who enjoyed Taken and thinks repeating the same thing makes for good viewing.
- Those who fancy enjoying Taken once more through a cinema trip as opposed to purchasing it on DVD.
For the rest of us however, the cinema-loving few who believe that a film's foundations should be built around a solid plot rather than simply featuring one, there's little on offer here. Don't get me wrong, there's worse out there...but not by much.
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