The evening is brisk and the sun is setting over the streets of central London. Amidst the light-hearted frivolity of Leicester Square sits a patient and eager audience in the depths of the Odeon cinema, awaiting the arrival of Bryan Mills. With beers in the arm rests and the scattered conversations covering nothing but action movies, the testosterone levels are being heightened, our desire for ass-kicking being teased.
Onscreen, suddenly, comes the leather-jacket-clad demigod Liam Neeson, addressing the audience personally – warning them to switch off their mobile phones and be nice about the movie, or he will deliver a…well you can probably guess the rest.
The movie begins.
With a grainy, mechanical opening, Taken 2 immediately sets its stall amongst the modern action/thrillers, such as its predecessor Taken, or the Bourne movies. The story begins by showing us the funeral of a group of men in Albania, where their families mourn them, and the father promises vengeance against the man who murdered them. Cut to America to see said man – Bryan Mills (Neeson). Having saved his daughter from sex traffickers in the first film, readily dispatching armed goons along the way, Bryan is back to working security details for wealthy clients, whilst enjoying a closer relationship with his daughter, and his estranged wife Lenore. The family is blissfully unaware that a plot is being put into motion which will place Bryan into the crosshairs.
On a job in Istanbul, Mills is once again put to the test and must use his special set of skills in order to save his family – only this time, they have “taken” him as well!
What ensues is ninety minutes of full-throttle action across the spectacular streets of Turkey’s capitol, chasing through its cobbled streets in deathly car chases, and clambering over its shanty-town roofs.
Essentially, not much has changed from the first instalment of Taken, and why should it? The first film was a smorgasbord of hand-to-hand combat, watching Neeson taking out the Euro-trash with frightening electricity (literally in the case of one poor goon). The action is still intensely addictive, the film again avoids any American gloss, going for the more dirtier look, and the heart of the film still beats through Mills’ emotion towards his family.
Where the movie stumbles is in the small changes with have been inflicted upon it – such as a lower threshold for violence. The film seems to shy away from showing the actual deeds being done this time around, leaving it instead to our imaginations. Also, the story loses a lot of its mystery. Whereas before the enemy was some intricate system of human trafficking across Europe that seemed darkly menacing, here we are offered all the bad guys on a plate, and see them throughout the movie attempting to hatch their bag-n-snag on Mills, putting it on par with a league of other films of this nature, rather than head-and-shoulders above them.
This being said, I want to reiterate the huge enjoyment factor this film holds. Many will argue the producers should have left it at one film, but there is a genuinely compelling story here. Simply put, Mills needed to do another mission. His time across Paris in the first movie was so fraught with hectic chases and gun fights that there was barely enough time to catch your breath, whereas Taken 2 gives us that extra quality time with our daddy figure, in order to flesh out a bit more about his character and what makes him tick (again, literally, there is a ticking clock in several cut scenes announcing the real-time aspect of the film).
I don’t think I could condone a Taken 3 just because, realistically, after this plot advancement Mills would probably have locked his loved ones up in Fort Knox and stood guard for the rest of his days shooting anyone who happened to pass by. However, Taken 2 must be taken for what it is – an addition to the first movie in order to fully realise the plot which began so successfully back in 2008. Never mind critics and faultfinders, Taken 2, aside from its tamer violence and linear baddies, is a thrilling action movie full of heart and pace, and kick-ass action sequences that make you wince.