Taken 2

Directed By: Olivier Megaton

Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, and Rade Šerbedžija

Taken was one awesome movie.  Despite the mediocrity around him, Liam Neeson rose to the occasion to turn a formulaic action flick into something much, much more.  Over the last four years, the film has become a beloved cult film.  When I first learned of the sequel Taken 2, I thought Liam Neeson would come back and give us everything we loved about the original all over again.  It breaks my heart to say that I was wrong.  Lightning doesn't strike the same place twice.  Taken 2 just downright sucks.

It's safe to say that Bryan Mills (Neeson) left a lot of dead Albanians in Paris at the end of Taken.  These men were sons, brothers, and fathers, and their families want revenge.  Led by Murad Hoxha (Rade Šerbedžija), the head of the Albanian mafia, their families seek justice for the reign of terror brought down on them by Bryan Mills.  They will find him and kill him.  Meanwhile, Lenore (Famke Janssen) has separated from her husband Stuart.  When Bryan learns of her recent marital troubles, he tries to help by inviting Lenore and their daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) to Istanbul.  He thinks it will help get their minds off the struggles of divorce.  Instead, they all get a taste of Albanians seeking revenge.

Taken 2 is just a terrible movie, and it baffles me.  Taken was written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen.  So was Taken 2Taken stars Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, and Famke Janssen.  So does Taken 2.  Putting this into context, I came to the realization that bringing these folks together isn't a surefire recipe for some badass action flick in and of itself.  We need great action scenes, halfway decent acting, and some solid writing.  We get none of this in Taken 2.  There's a whole lot of blame that can be thrown around at everyone. 

There are many reasons why the original Taken worked so well, but what it boils down to is that Liam Neeson's awesomeness outweighs the mediocrity surrounding him in the film.  Similarly, there are many reasons why Taken 2 does not work so well, and what this boils down to is the fact that Liam Neeson is no spring chicken.  He's not the same guy he was four years ago.  Now 60, Neeson is not so believable in his action scenes.  He now looks like an old man fighting, not a recently retired spy.  Couple this with the fact that he's not given great dialogue full of terrific one-liners, and Neeson just doesn't deliver the Bryan Mills we all know and love.  He's lost his smoothness.  With all this in mind, it may be time for Neeson to go get his AARP membership card and go join the old folks in The Expendables 3

As Lenny and Kimmy, Famke Janssen and Maggie Grace get elevated roles.  This is a huge mistake on the part of Besson and Kamen.  They're terrible actresses, and unleashing them on the big screen spells disaster for the film.  In the original Taken, they had bit roles, and weren't on screen long enough to do any damage.  With considerably more prominent roles in this sequel, they do plenty of damage.  These two are annoying as hell.  Whether trying to give emotional performances or just being whiny, inept civilians, they add no value whatsoever to the film.

As for writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, they fail to recreate the magic that made the original so awesome.  Aside from not giving Neeson the dialogue he needs to be smooth and elevating Janssen and Grace to larger, more irritating roles, these guys fail to give the film even a semblance of coherence.  While we all certainly had to suspend our disbelief in the original, Besson and Kamen gave us detective work and other plot developments that grounded the film.  There's none of that here.  They rob the film of everything that could have made it logical.  There's no amount of disbelief that can be suspended to accept some of the nonsensical stuff that happens in Taken 2.

Liam Neeson's barely decent performance can't outweigh the crappiness around him in Taken 2.  The film fails to live up to its predecessor in every way.  It pains me to give Taken 2 a wasted rating.  I don't know how to ease the pain, so I'm going to recommend something that never fails.  It's time for some mystery shots!