Taken 2 Review

As the story of Taken 2 unfolds you will begin to focus on critical issues that have begun to plague your mind. “Did I leave the stove on?” you might say. Or, “I wonder what’s on TV tonight?” Or, if you are a slightly freer thinker, “Can time travel ever be truly possible if two bodies cannot occupy the same space at the same time and I time travel back to when I was younger?” It is fair to say you may only be pondering the last thought if you had viewed the vastly superior film Looper which Taken 2 has inexplicably beaten at the box office to the tune of $65million worldwide. There is also a chance your attention will become focused on the film again at some point. This is not because it is bad. It is because it is so bad, that it is actually an insult to humanity on many levels. Not only has the insidious Irish tree-impersonator Liam Neeson returned to the silver screen trying to convince people once again that he is in fact an actor, Taken 2 acts as the final nail in the coffin of the once proud Luc Besson. For years he has been forgiven his sins as he was the man who brought us Leon (1994) and The Fifth Element (1997) but no more. He is as dead as the slew of minor characters Bryan Mills (Neeson) dispenses on his bloodthirsty quest to free his captive family. Oh and by the way, the film is also mildly racist due to its assumption that everyone in the Muslim world, or indeed Asia, is evil.

Taken 2’s subtle(ish) racial issues begin in the mountains of Albania as it shows the brothers and fathers of Neeson’s victims from the previous film declaring their need for revenge in an entirely uninspiring way. Leader Murad (a misplaced Rade Sherbedgia) is no Maximus Decimus Meridius, in fact he’s not even close. The rest of the plot is signposted as subtly as a Las Vegas hotel. The crucial point coming when Bryan announces a trip to Istanbul whilst seemingly it occurs to everyone in the audience that that is probably not a very good idea, but sure go ahead, invite your family as well Bryan. What could possibly go wrong? Of course everything does go wrong as Bryan and his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) are kidnapped by the aforementioned relatives, leaving their terrified daughter to try and aid their escape. The most amazing thing is that the plot actually gets more ridiculous as the film progresses so best just to leave it at that.

Luc Besson and co-writer Robert Mark Karmen have written a script that sounds rather like it was written by two people who have never had a conversation in their lives. The combination of atrocious lines such as “don’t go there friend” delivered by Bryan to one of his ‘buddies’ at a BBQ, coupled with appalling editing feels like you have been run over by a truck which has then reversed over your pulverised body just to make sure there is nothing left of your brain. Apparently space and time is thrown out of the window. Lenore sits down with an unopened bottle of wine to talk to Bryan. Cut. The next scene is of them drinking the wine, no extra time has passed and the conversation was unbroken. It may seem a small incident to pick on but it is far from isolated. It can’t be good for the audiences facial muscles to be contracted into a disgusted “what the hell?” pose for an hour and a half. When Bryan gleefully states that he has learnt Istanbul was the famous gateway between Asia and Europe and used to be Constantinople, his daughter is astounded. She asks quizzically, “how did you know that?” As Bryan answers “from a book” it is impossible not to chuckle. His forceful answer implies that this feat was something not easily accomplished. As we all know books are a refuge only for the learned, anyone else who dares to gaze upon the mysterious pages must be ready for an arduous task. Hardly the words of an erudite man of the world.

Olivier Megaton is an appropriately named man as his surname denotes the power of the bomb that is dropped on your head by his restless and incompetent directing. For some inexplicable reason, Megaton has decided that the human attention span lasts no longer than five seconds, as barely a shot in his films exceeds this length. Ok, it is impossible to confirm that as it is unlikely anyone will sit through the film counting each shot but for a five minute segment, in which I became so bored I began to count the time before each cut, not one of them exceeded this limit. Whatever his reasons it leaves the film looking like a shit video game. Possibly only those who have had their minds adjusted by thousands of hours of playing can understand exactly what is happening. A car chase in which Bryan’s daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), who happens to be a learner driver, outruns a horde of kidnappers (as well as the cops, because obviously everyone is evil in this foreign place) is unwatchable, for two reasons. Firstly it is a ridiculous farce and defies the laws of physics and secondly, it is actually unwatchable. Each shot changes so quickly that it is incredibly difficult to work out exactly what is happening.

The same occurs in fight scenes involving the 60 year old Neeson. A large out of shape pensioner is never going to move like Bruce Lee, so to compensate Megaton again moves the camera around like he is in the middle of a rave. Of course once Bryan’s ex-wife is sequestered away, it becomes fairly obvious that Bryan is very angry, this is one of the two facial expressions accomplished by Neeson. The other being the ‘where are my keys?’ look. Bounding around Istanbul looking for keys can’t be easy so it is no wonder Neeson constantly looks either fed up or pissed off, although I suppose the latter is an attempt to convey his trepidation for the safety of his family.

Taken 2 is an abomination of a film. Some may argue that it sleek production values and stunts mean that it can’t be the worst film ever but that is not necessarily so. The fact that someone, somewhere and some time gave this crew the amount of money it takes to make these stunts happen is a travesty. It would have been better spent on drugs and fireworks. The movie is terrible but it is also insidious. Asia is culturally diverse and mysterious to many, but to make it seem like an inherently dangerous place full of kidnapping terrorists is a despicable angle. As Lenore runs through the street it becomes apparent that no one is chasing her. This doesn’t stop her from looking frightfully at Muslim women wearing burqas, as if they are also some form of ninja assassin waiting for her to make the wrong move. Although it is likely that this is not intentional but to be so ignorant of the implications of such an approach is criminally negligent and inexcusable. So congratulations to the Taken 2 team. Not only have they made a hilariously bad film, full of mistakes and incompetence. They may also have helped set race-relations back another decade or so. Thanks.

 

Follow Jonny on Twitter @joffglen

About The Author

Jonathan went back to university to study Film Journalism in Glasgow in 2012 and hasn't looked back since. Writing for the Edinburgh Internation Film Festival, The Birmingham Review, The Electrolyte Magazine as well as Front Row Reviews he enjoys working across media and if not lambasting folk about politics it's film on his agenda. Working in The Electric Cinema in Birmingham has allowed him to come closer to the medium he loves, his favourite filmmaker is Wong Kar-Wai.

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