'Taken 2', the sequel to 2008’s 'Taken', was a box office success, in spite of critics bemoaning its 12A certificate (compared to the original’s 15) and apparently slightly watered-down thrills. Having not actually seen the first instalment of this burgeoning franchise, I’m in the arguably enviable position of having no point of comparison – which could explain why I thought 'Taken 2' was a semi-enjoyable action ride.
Set some time after the events of 'Taken' – in which Liam Neeson’s Bryan Mills, a notionally retired CIA agent, summarily dispatches an Albanian human trafficking ring who kidnap his daughter in Paris – the sequel takes place in Istanbul. Bryan, his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) and ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) embark on an impromptu holiday and find themselves the targets of a bitter vendetta. Apparently, one does not simply fly into Europe.
The grieving relatives of the criminals who Mills did away with originally are intent on revenge, seizing the opportunity to kidnap the retired agent along with his ex-wife and daughter as they unwittingly enjoy the sights in Turkey’s capital. From that point onwards, it’s a race against time as Mills fights to save his family from the clutches of the evil foreigners – er, kidnappers.
There is a persistent whiff of ridiculousness that hangs around the film, which is mostly due to the slightly pathetic criminal element. The vengeance-seeking kidnappers are pretty much inept – leaving Neeson’s character unsupervised and amiably chatting away to his daughter via a concealed phone for long stretches, watching football when they should be avenging, and painstakingly torturing Lenore’s knitwear in one especially cringe-worthy scene. It’s difficult not to laugh when one bad guy utters, theatrically, and utterly devoid of any logic: “You are a good mother – that’s why I send you home piece by piece!”
It’s not all dreadful, however: Neeson’s performance is predictably assured, offering just the right mixture of tight-jawed badass and paternal vulnerability. There’s also one fiendishly clever sequence as Mills instructs his daughter on how to pinpoint his location using some smart map-work and a few grenades – a tense and tightly paced segment that keeps you on tenterhooks.
All in all, whilst 'Taken 2' is by no means a masterpiece, I did find it reasonably entertaining – and for a non-cerebral popcorn action-thriller, it’s not terrible. Just watch with expectations suitably lowered and you’ll get along fine.
- Extended and theatrical feature
'Taken 2' is out on DVD/Blu-ray this week. Purchase the DVD from amazon.co.uk, on its own or in a double pack with 'Taken'.