Friday, October 12, 2012

Taken 2 Review

Taken was one of 2009's surprise hits.  It showed the world that 50-something Liam Neeson could be an action star - and a badass one at that.  Taken was a fast-paced, non-stop thrill ride that just worked on so many levels.  I was, of course, a bit skeptical about the announcement of Taken 2 - I didn't see how the story could evolve to fill another film.  Luckily most of my doubts were assuaged upon seeing the final product; it may not be as great as the original, but its still a fun ride.

Pretty much everything about Taken 2 is entertaining and just plain works.  There are a few issues here and there that overall bring it down just a bit from its predecessor.  The most egregious error will stick out like a sore thumb to anyone watching it: how the action is filmed.  Its just bad.  The shaky-cam on display is almost as bad as Green Zone.  It is nearly impossible to tell what's going on and who's hitting who.  Now, this does get a little better as the film progresses, but the first real fight, in particular, is utterly incomprehensible.  Just hold the camera steady and pull back a bit for a nice wide shot.  I understand that most of the time shaky-cam is used to conceal more violent acts (as is the case with this year's The Hunger Games), but there's gotta be something else to do to bring down the rating to PG-13.

My other issues with the film are just nitpicky.  There is one gaping plot hole, at the end of the second act, that just bothers the hell out of me.  I don't want to spoil anything, but something pretty big goes down and there are no ramifications - we just keep on trucking with nary a thought.  Just a small scene or two of some exposition would've wrapped up that plot thread and made the film feel that much more complete.

With all of that negative business out of the way I can get down to what really matters: Liam Neeson continues to be a complete and utter badass.  If you enjoyed the carnage he wreaked on the human-trafficking goons of the first film, then you'll most likely be pleased by the goings-on of Taken 2.  The narrative is an incredibly natural progression of the original: the fathers/brothers/uncles of the men killed at the hands of Bryan Mills are out for vengeance against him and his family.  Famke Janssen and Maggie Grace return as Lenore and Kim, respectively.  This time, Bryan and Lenore are the ones who are taken (as can be seen in the trailers), with Kim having to aid them in their escape.

The plot is engaging, fast-paced, and just plain fun.  Despite some shaky logic, how Kim aids Bryan during his taken-ness is nothing short of awesome.  Yeah, the basic premise is incredibly similar to the original, but honestly, what would any of us expect?  In a movie called Taken 2 I would very much expect people to get taken.  They did, and I thought it was awesome.  Seeing Liam back on screen demolishing hordes of bad guys was just great to watch.  The score/soundtrack was also quite good.  Two songs from the Drive soundtrack popped up, namely "Night Call" and "Tick of the Clock."  Its no secret that I loved Drive, as it was my favorite film of last year; needless to say I was more than happy to see them pop up in Taken 2.

With all of that said, Taken 2 just lacks something that made the original so entertaining and special.  Most of the ingredients are still there: great story, some great action sequences (when you can actually see what's going on), characters you care about, and Liam Neeson killing tons of dudes.  I can't really put my finger on what was missing, but I would still highly recommend the film to anyone who dug the original.  If you didn't like Taken, then there's literally nothing about its sequel that will make you change your mind.

Taken 2 is a fantastic sequel that just doesn't quite live up to its predecessor.

The Bearded Bullet.

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