taken_2.jpgOne question immediately comes to mind about Taken 2: Why was this film made? In the first Taken, we meet ex-CIA operative Bryan (played by Liam Neeson), and his estranged daughter Kim (Maggie Grace pretending to be a teenager), who gets kidnapped in Paris and sold as a sex slave.

With Bryan killing bad guys in order to get his daughter back, the first Taken was loaded with action sequences and showed Neeson as a bonafide action star, even though he was in his mid-50s.

Speed up four years and you have Taken 2, in which 60-year old Neeson reprises his role as Byran who invites Kim and her mother/Bryan’s ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen), who happens to be separated from her current husband, to Istanbul for a few days of family fun.

While in Istanbul the father, cousins, brothers, etc. of the sex traffickers Bryan killed in the first Taken, upset because their loved ones are dead, choose a ringleader, Murad (Rade Serbedzija), to guide them in the kidnapping and killing of Bryan, Kim, and Lenore.

Screenwriters Luc Besson and Robert Kamen, responsible for both Taken films, bring less than their best to this cheesy excuse for Neeson to show off his skills.  We get that Neeson is arguably the thinking man’s action hero. But so is Bruce Willis, and he gets way better material.

FIRST ONE WORKED

The real reason Taken 2 was made is that audiences overseas liked the first and Europa Corp and 20th Century want to make those audiences happy. But no matter how much audiences like Neeson, there’s no excuse for a sequel to a film that ended quite nicely the first time.

Director Olivier Megaton tries to give the audience as much suspense as possible, as a distraction from the awful storyline. Savvy filmgoers, however, will notice that Taken 2 is quite visibly one of the worst sequels ever made. The dialogue is cheesy, at best. The storyline is predictable. There are action scenes that make no sense. Neeson, while being a cold-blooded killing machine, looks as if it’s a huge labor for him to deal his blows; he’s slowing down.

For the worst aspects of Taken 2, consider the scene in the middle of the film (spoiler alert!) in which Bryan’s ex-wife has a gun to her head and he’s being told to drop his weapon.

Before he drops his firearm, the bad guys are kind enough to allow him to make a phone call to his daughter — who they are planning to kidnap, again — and tell her that her parents are being “taken” and that she should “go to his room and hide in the closet.” Besson and Kamen sure know how to keep things … predictable.

MARKETABILITY

That said, Neeson, still a fine actor, is obviously getting long in the tooth and should re-consider going back to better roles where his characters can flourish. Likewise, Grace sort of pulls off “teenager,” but knowing that she is 29 years old and looks it, it’s pretty hard to believe that she could be a teenager.

Rounding out the cast of good people, Janssen spends most of the movie semi-conscious from one thing or another, and plays unconscious really well.  She doesn’t have much chemistry with Neeson, but given that he’s 12 years her senior, that’s kind of understandable.

From a writing standpoint, the less interaction for two people who don’t mesh with each other, the better. However, to have two people fall in love, there needs to be some sort of buildup, which the film never takes the time to pull off.

Moviemaking has become a thing of foreign marketability. So anything that can appeal to a mass audience is made. Unfortunately, that means audiences in the United States and abroad will find themselves watching films that don’t need to be remade and don’t need sequels. Fans of the first Taken, do yourselves a favor: Rent it.  It’s cheaper.