out of Five
Running time: 91
Poorly shot, badly written and heavily edited to secure a 12A rating, this is a massively disappointing and ultimately pointless sequel that completely ignores the (albeit extremely violent) guilty pleasure appeal of the first film.
What's it all about?
Directed by Olivier Megaton (and yes, he named himself after the bomb), Taken 2 is a sequel to the surprise 2008 hit, in which retired CIA operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) slaughtered his way through almost every Albanian in Paris in order to rescue his kidnapped daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) from sex-traffickers. This time round, the film opens with the funeral of several Albanian goons killed by Mills in the first film, whereupon angry patriarch Murad (Rade Serbedzija) swears bloody revenge.
Sure enough, when Bryan, his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) and Kim take a trip to Istanbul, Bryan and Lenore are quickly kidnapped in a revenge attack, leaving Kim to come to their rescue. Fortunately, Bryan manages to contact Kim as he's being taken and leaves her a particular set of instructions involving a bag of grenades, a map of Istanbul and lots of guns.
There was an undeniable thrill about seeing Liam Neeson ruthlessly dispatching wrong'uns in the first film, a thrill derived partly from superbly shot action sequences, partly from an startlingly high level of bone-crunching violence and partly from the cold intensity of Neeson's performance. Sadly, all of those elements are missing this time round; Neeson barely puts the effort in, though it is fair to say that Maggie Grace's acting is a lot better this time round and she's learned how to run properly in the meantime.
The biggest problem with the film is that it has been completely butchered by the studio in order to secure a 12A rating, thereby completely ignoring what made the first film such a guilty pleasure in the first place. What's worse is that the cutting is so painfully clumsy that it's practically insulting and it renders at least two key scenes nonsensical, as you can't tell what's supposed to have happened; on top of that, all the violent sounds have been removed from the soundtrack, most notably neck-breaks (so it now looks like he sleeper-holds people to death) and, in one scene, an apparently silent length of chain.
As if all that wasn't bad enough, director Megaton is simply incapable of directing a coherent action sequence; a central car chase is a mess of choppy close-ups and rapid editing, while even routine fight scenes are over-edited so you can't tell who's hitting who. In addition, the dialogue is dreadful throughout, though there are a handful of unintentional laughs, particularly when Bryan gets Kim to triangulate her position by lobbing grenades around Istanbul.
Taken 2 is a badly directed, poorly written and atrociously edited mess that's almost insulting to watch and would still be a disaster even without the 12A-chasing hatchet job. Watch the first film again instead.