Taken was most likely intended to be a one off action film for Liam Neeson. The hero may not walk away with the girl but the divorcee earned the respect and admiration of his ex-wife while saving their daughter from a sex ring, leaving an ultra-happy ending to be had despite Brian Mills walking away alone. Someone at Fox must’ve thought this was the unhappy ending and wanted to let the former CIA operative walk away with everything; thus comes Taken 2. It really should’ve been called Taken 2: The Search For More Money to use an old Spaceballs gag.
This time Brian is in Istanbul, Turkey, with his CIA buddies on some sort of job. When ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) and his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) join him unexpectedly he plans to have a good old time in Turkey. That is until the father of one of the men he killed (Rade Serdebzija) gets together a group of his fellow Albanians to kidnap all three. From there violent shenanigans ensue as Brian and Lenore get kidnapped and it gets a little complicated.
The problem is that the film doesn’t know exactly who should be kidnapped and why. The original film focused on just Kim, of course, as Brian has to fight against the clock to figure out where she is and rescue her. It made it easy to follow and gave it a singular purpose; this was a father’s wrath singularly focused on a target. The sequel gets muddled because it doesn’t know where to go; initially the bad guys go after the entire family and then the film loses all of its focus. Which is a shame because it has a tremendous premise that if harnessed could’ve made it as much of a visceral rush as the first was.
Rade Serbedzija has the best character motivation of a Luc Besson produced action film: he’s getting revenge for his dead son and the dead men from Brian’s first swath of violence through Paris. We can understand his wrath because no man wants to bury his son or admit that he was a detestable human being better off dead. A father’s rage at the harm of their child is something that’s understandable and gives him tremendous character motivation. He’s not twirling his moustache and tying someone to train tracks for no good reason.
But his entire plan is just so incredibly bad that it just kills most of the film’s focus. If there was a singular purpose, as Brian rampages through Istanbul to find his daughter or his ex-wife, then the film would be a bit tighter. Instead there’s a mess of a plot that gets resolved in a similarly confusing manner. The film’s final confrontation between Neeson and Serbedzija gives you an insight into the characters but it doesn’t do anything to make it meaningful.
And the beginning of Taken 2 gives us some good character development as well. The whole family has had issues ever since the first, as they should due to the nature of the film, and they begin to deal with it. Kim talks about trying to find a sense of normal after everything that happened with her father, while trying to pass a driver’s license test, and we feel that damage to her. It’s a throwaway scene but it shows that there’s something there to these characters. It’s unique in action films that we never acknowledge that the actions of a prior film can leave long-standing psychic scars on someone. Kim is probably a mess in a lot of ways and seeing her acknowledge this makes you think this film can go in an entirely different direction character wise.
Unfortunately once the action starts the film just casually tosses all of this out the window into a muddled mess of an action film. This is a film that could’ve been significantly better than it ends up turning out to be. Taken 2 is a cash grab sequel, nothing more, that doesn’t deliver anything more than it has to. This is a shame because it could’ve done so much more.
Director: Olivier Megaton
Writer: Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen
Notable Cast: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Rade Serbedzija