October 5, 2012



TAKEN 2:  Watch It At Home – “Particular Set of Skills” Indeed


As silly sequels to mindless hits go, TAKEN 2 is fairly entertaining, at least for a while.  The first movie, of course, was a surprise smash in 2009, at $145M (in the US alone) Liam Neeson’s biggest success as a solo star.  It earned its small place in the annals of pulp cinema with that quiet but urgent speech, featured in every trailer and TV spot, in which ex-CIA agent Bryan Mills (Neeson) assured the kidnappers of his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) that he would soon be using his “very particular set of skills” to hunt down and kill them.  Which, in fact, he did.

A hit that big is going to have a sequel.  Luc Besson (also the lead producer) and Robert Mark Kamen repeat as screenwriters, but Olivier Megaton (another member of the Besson European action-movie brigade, last represented by Colombiana, and still one of the best action-movie-director names ever) replaces Pierre Morel behind the camera.  Enough time has passed since the first Taken that Bryan’s ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) has broken up with her 2nd husband and may be ready to become not so much “ex,” and Kim has an irrelevant boyfriend.  You might think this family would confine its vacations to the Caribbean and the occasional cruise to Alaska, but when business brings Bryan to Istanbul–because that’s a place always known for its placid nonviolence–he invites ex and daughter to join him, and they do.  This inevitably alerts the antenna of Murad Krasniki (Rade Serbedzija), the vengeance-seeking father of one of the hoods Neeson bumped off the last time, and before long another quiet but urgent phone call is needed.

Except this time there is a bit of a twist, and it’s a good one by the standards of this genre.  Instead of daughter Kim being taken, it’s Bryan himself who’s captured along with Lenore, handing the midsection of the movie over to Kim, who has to provide some heroics of her own while Dad–courtesy of a conveniently hidden tiny 2nd cell phone–talks her through tracking him down, throwing the random grenade and getting him armed.  It wouldn’t do to scrutinize the plotting of all this too closely, but on its own terms, it’s fun.  That’s followed by a satisfyingly Bourne-type relatively small-scale car chase through the streets of Istanbul, with unlicensed driver Kim at the wheel, that doesn’t overdo the “she can’t drive!” schtick.

Of course, tickets are being bought in anticipation of Liam Neeson blowing people away, and in the last reel or so Taken 2 dutifully delivers those action beats, as Bryan has to retrieve Lenore and get to the climactic face-off with Murad.  This is the most predictable part of the proceedings, just another picture testing how many deaths a PG-13 rating will allow.  (One victim is killed with so little visible effort from Bryan that he seems to have perished via magic).

No one really needs a third Taken–although without a doubt, plans for it are already being hatched–but this one is fairly painless.  Neeson is very good at giving some sense of emotional grounding to his bang-bang heroics (you actually believe he’d prefer not to be spending his day killing people), and the movie takes the time to allow for some mild characterization before things start blowing up.  There’s no substance to Taken 2, any more than there was to the first one; on the other hand, no one in the multiplex should feel cheated.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."