I don't normally go on Rotten Tomatoes before seeing a movie, especially one I'm reviewing. But sometimes, it's inescapable. The lower the score on RT, the more people are going to talk about it (especially when one works at a movie theater). Taken 2 is one of those movies. When I first heard the aggregate score, it was at 7%. On Wednesday it was at 9%. Yesterday morning it crawled up to 12%. Even my own editor-in-chief told me it sucked. At the time of this writing, it's all the way up to 17%.
Now, will I let the collective bad taste of approximately 83% of the film journalist community color my opinion of this film? AW HELL NAW! Let's jump into the thick of things and see how well my thoughts line up with everybody else's.
Taken 2 follows Taken (Liam Neeson) as he finds himself in a pickle after some bad guys come after him, his ex-wife (Famke Jensen), and his daughter (Maggie Grace) while they're on vacation in Constantinople Istanbul. The bad guys, led by Murad Krasniqi (Rade Serbedzija) want to make Taken face justice for all the dudes he killed in the first movie. You know, the dudes that took his daughter. I mean, he gave them fair warning about his very particular skill set. Can Taken use his Rain Man-esque skills for being a badass to save his family?
A lot of people have complained that Taken 2 didn't need a sequel. I actually think the impetus of the sequel is brilliant. How many times does the hero/anti-hero leave a metric ton of dead dudes in his wake as he rides off into the sunset? They all, as Murad points out in the film, have families, wives, kids, grandkids, uncles, aunts, pets, pool cleaners that are suddenly without all because some unkillable beefcake went to save his wife/daughter/parakeet/the world from them. Well, Murad Krasniqi ain't havin' that, no sir. He and his army of cardboard goons are going to get their pounds of flesh!
Normally I talk about the cast's performances, but besides Liam Neeson and Maggie Grace, everybody else is made out of cardboard. Seriously. Famke Jensen is blah, and there's literally no other characters that contribute anything besides bodies hitting the ground, save for Taken's buddies, who once again were pitifully underused. If they do make a third film, I really hope they get a chance to shine.
The big problem with this movie is it has to live up to Taken. Remember in the first one when he tortured a bunch of dudes for information and it was super brutal? In this one, SPOILER ALERT, it's pretty much shots to the chest and neck-snaps. HOWEVER! One of my friends friends was quick to point out that Taken had no time to prepare this time around, so he's a lot more reactive instead of electrocuting dudes with jumper cables until their hearts explode. Having had this pointed out to me, I give the advantage to Luc Besson. Unfortunately, even with that in mind, I still had a problem with how the film played out. I have attached the pie chart below in an effort to show you what I mean:
I guess I just feel like there wasn't ever any doubt in my mind that this dude who can find a place he was taken to (doho!) while blindfolded earlier in the movie just by listening for the same sounds and counting like autistic Dustin Hoffman wasn't going to save his family. There weren't any grand set pieces, the bad guy was really one-dimensional, and I called the final scene almost immediately.
It's not all bad though. I mean, Liam Neeson kicks ass and there's a decent clip of movie where Maggie Grace is in a bikini. The film just takes too long to get going and when it does, most of it is a car chase and when he goes to fight to destroy the bad guy, there's only twenty minutes left of the movie. Literally. Not much time for a showdown and a conclusion. For the record, the showdown was kind of cool as far as anti-climaxes go.
My biggest point of contention wasn't how I didn't feel this film matched up to its predecessor though. When a song from another movie pops up, especially one that isn't by the composer but an actual song, I let it slide. In Taken 2, not one but two songs from the Drive soundtrack pop up. As one of the four or so soundtrack albums on my phone, I recognized both right away. The first (College's 'A Real Hero') was minor and barely worth noting had it been the only one, but then later in the film they used the Chromatics' 'Tick of the Clock.' I wonder if maybe Olivier Megaton or someone else in charge of such things has a music boner for Drive. I mean, can you blame them if they did? Also, that song from the Internet Explorer commercials ('Too Close' by Alex Clare for those playing at home) closed the movie out. I'm sorry, but I can't take any song seriously that was used in an Internet Explorer commercial.
Was this movie great? No. Was it good? Yes. Was it exactly what one would expect from a sequel to Taken? More or less. Will there be a third? Luc Besson says no, but they do leave it open. Would I see the third at midnight opening night? Depends what else is playing. Would I take Maggie Grace down to Poundtown? Yeah, totes.
Fun fact: I had originally planned to refer to Maggie Grace as Taken 2 and Famke Jensen as Miss Taken, but it was a lot funnier in my head last night.