Friday, October 5, 2012

“Taken 2” – A place we’ve already been.

It doesn’t take a psychic to guess that Taken 2 is essentially a retread of its predecessor. The title alone tells you that, but if that’s not enough the marketing team was kind enough to show it in every preview they released. Just from a single preview, you will know that Neeson and his ex-wife will be taken and he’s going to call his daughter and tell her precisely that. In fact, this was the moment at which the audience that was screening this film cheered, laughed, and started drooling on itself. Well, at least two of those things are true; you can decide which.

In case you missed the previews, here’s how the movie goes. The father of the guy Liam Neeson electrocuted in the first film – also the same guy who abducted his daughter – declares his intention to avenge his son’s death by killing Neeson. After torturing some people and bribing half of Istanbul, he tracks down Neeson and his family and enacts his plan to capture them and kill them. Unfortunately, his daughter (Maggie Grace) ruins the plan by going swimming in their hotel pool. Neeson and his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) attempt to escape their pursuers, but are captured after Neeson kills a bunch of them. It’s at this point Neeson calls Grace and gives her the token phrase, though slightly altered; “We’re about to be taken.” Ye-gads.

The bad guy father (Rade Serbedzija, a.k.a. the Russian guy from The Saint) does his best impression of a cartoon villain, tying Neeson to a pipe while slitting his wife’s throat just enough so that when they hang her upside down she’ll slowly bleed to death. Naturally, the bad guys all leave to go get Grace. At this point, I wouldn’t have been surprised if a booming voice interrupted asking if our heroes were going to survive.

As soon as they leave, Neeson easily escapes, releases Janssen, then kills more bad guys. Now, he has to get to Grace before the bad guys. Will our hero rescue the damsel in time? BIFF! BOOM! POW! BANG! Of course he does. This is followed by the most implausible car chase scene this side of Speed Racer. The beginning of the movie shows us that Grace has failed her driver’s test, twice, yet we’re now expected to believe she can navigate the narrow streets of Istanbul at high speeds, driving a stick, no less. This is where the mouth-breathing audience should have been laughing, and maybe they were. I wouldn’t know because all I could hear was Neeson repeatedly yelling “Faster!” and Grace answering “I can’t!”

This preposterous scene finally concludes with Neeson and Grace crashing through the gates of the American Embassy, surviving being shot at with multiple machine guns, including a .50 caliber. Ummm…no. Anyway, they’re safe, but Janssen has been recaptured and we are treated to a mini-version of Neeson tracking her down. SPLAT! PFFFT! BLAM! More bodies, Neeson saves Janssen, the end.

Taken 2 might be the longest ninety minute movie ever. The film takes far too long to get to any action, wasting more than half an hour between Neeson’s family dynamics and the bad guys methodically tracking Neeson and setting their trap. We already know his family loves him after he saved Grace in the first film, so why are we being force-fed more proof? We also know about the revenge plot within the first three minutes of the film, so why are we being force-fed more proof? If the filmmakers were intent on forcing a completely unnecessary sequel on us, the least they could have done was given us more of Neeson kicking ass and less of everything else. If that’s not enough, the bad guys will actually stop fighting in one scene to allow Neeson to call his daughter. This actually happens.

The most important thing you need to know about this movie is that it has no soul, whatsoever. Everything in it is derivative of the first film, minus any of the tension, drama, intensity, or raw emotion that made the first film so great. At no point will you worry that Neeson, Grace, or Janssen will die. Everything is a foregone conclusion, the actors seem almost bored with their parts, and even the bad guys don’t seem like they are terribly interested in their task. If this film could talk, it would probably be one long yawn, maybe with a KAAA-POW! or CRAAACK! mixed in.

Rating: Like the movie, it is a foregone conclusion that you should ask for all of your money back. But at least you only lost ninety minutes of your life instead of two hours this time.

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