Monday, October 8, 2012

TAKEN 2: Everything I expected, which isn't particularly a good thing.

This week saw the release of Taken 2 the sequel to the 2008 hit Taken which set Liam Neeson up for action hero stardom, and done for the action genre what Scream done for the horror. It was almost inevitable that a sequel would soon be in the works. Once again Liam Neeson comes back to reprise his role, as does Maggie Grace, and Famke Janssen, but this time we are given a different director in Olivier Megaton, who directed Transporter 3 and Colombiana, which basically highlights to us that this man can direct action so what a match up this should all be; an action director, an action star, and a great action franchise, so why did it all feel wrong?

The set up of the film is quite dull considering the first film felt dark. When Brian (Neeson) takes a job guarding a Sheikh in Istanbul he invites his ex-wife and daughter over to spend some time together once his job finishes, however in neighbouring country Albania the Father of one of the men Brian slaughtered in the first film has vowed revenge and has begun hunting the former CIA agent down. When they finally meet this Father (Rade Sherbedzija) takes Brian and his wife and continues to hunt for the daughter, who Brian must talk through this ordeal via a CIA gadget phone. The plot never really derails from a typical revenge plot with the hero fighting back, escaping and then having to kill everyone in order to free his family from it all happening again. It is a premise we have seen so many times before which is a real let down considering the first one, although lacking in depth, had a plot that was fairly original when it come to a typical action film. The stakes were also different in the original, which was his daughter being sold to a prostitution ring, whereas here it is his life that is at stake which seems a little old fashioned. Taken took a step forward from the typical action film but unfortunately Taken 2 has taken two steps back.

As well as the plot being similar to many films out there the film also suffered from taking areas of other films and placing them in the story line. The fight scenes seem more like the Bourne film fight scenes, with a jerky camera, up close framing, and fast cutting. The chase scene to a railroad looks exactly like the one we will see later this month in the new Bond film Skyfall. When Brian removed his jacket to fight it reminded me of his previous action film Unknown. The roof top chase sequence had hints of Colombiana and The International. And finally, which annoyed me the most, was the music which was taken straight from the Drive soundtrack. It felt like the film was really rushed through production and people didn't really have much of an interest for it. I know many films take from others but when the first movie was so different in its premise and action set ups it is highly disappointing that this has taken a cliched route. Much of this could be down to the direction as, although we have seen Megaton create some exhilirating action sequences before, it feels like some of the actions scenes here are flat, especially the first fight scene, which takes place at about the thirty minute mark of a ninety minute film. The set up is definitely over run.

Other than the opening act, which does take a while, the rest of the film seems to go by with a blink of an eyelid. It seems to take an afternoon for everything to take place, which make it feel slightly rushed, especially the climax which showed how much of a wimp Rade Sherbedzija's character really was. He just backs himself into a corner afraid, which begs the question; if you are so afraid of him why did you only leave him with one guard in a cell and tied to a pipe? The villain goes from a Joker silhouette (I've noticed more baddies being drawn this way) to a coward, he never became meaner, and we never doubted that Brian would win. There are a few things that do save this film though, it is fun I'll give it that. The middle action scene with the chase through the streets, despite having seen it before, was exciting and the way in which Brian works out his location is also well done. Another reason it gets an extra thumbs up is because it stars Liam Neeson, who has become a great actor over the last decade, however his name is much better than his performance here as to me he was on auto pilot, and seemed as uninterested with the making of this film as everyone else did. The delivery of his lines was unenthused but that could also be down to the cliched script he had been given. The best performance in this movie was definitely Maggie Grace.

What we end up with then is a film that has disregarded the greatness of the first one. Taken was a great film, it changed the view on the action genre and brought us a new superstar; however the sequel has diminished all of that. People will either like this because they love Neeson and feel they should like it, or others will hate it as it isn't a patch on the first. We were pretty split on our decision as to what we thought as we both agreed with how badly executed it was but that we had fun whilst watching it, and despite Neeson's unenthused performance he still was fun to watch when kicking ass. We went into the film expecting to see a film that shouldn't really have been made and that is exactly what we got. The production company saw money to be made here and in those terms it would have succeeded but as a good film it certainly has not. It feels rushed and as if ninety percent of the people involved also didn't agree it should have been made.

Pros: The map and shoestring scene is clever and some of the action sequences.

Cons: Miles behind its predecessor and what appears to be a product of some uninterested people.

6.5 / 10

Top 10 of 2012 so far:

1. The Dark Knight Rises     10 / 10
2. The Hunger Games     8 / 10
3. Snow White And The Huntsman     8 / 10
4. Avengers Assemble     7.5 / 10
5. Looper     7.5 / 10
6. Ted     7.5 / 10
7. 21 Jump Street     7.5 / 10
8. Lawless     7 / 10
9. The Expendables 2     7 / 10
10. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol     7 / 10

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