Taken, the 2008 thriller about a former CIA agent trying to locate his kidnapped daughter, became a surprise success, grossing over $225 million worldwide and turning Liam Neeson into an action star. Four years later, we find Neeson reprising his role as Brian Mills, the security expert with “a particular set of skills” – unfortunately, none of those skills involve creating a watchable film.
Taking place sometime after the events of Taken, the narrative is built on the ridiculous premise that every bad guy Mills killed during the first film just happens to be from the same tiny village in the mountains of Albania, and the father (Rade Serbedzija) has enlisted the help of their families to exact revenge on Mills. After a confusing torture-murder scene and a visit to a nondescript security office, the villains track Mills to Istanbul, where he has just been reunited with his estranged wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen) and teenage daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace).
Attempts to kidnap the trio go awry, and Kim finds herself hiding in a hotel closet, communicating with her father via his secretly stashed cell phone. Despite being blindfolded during transport, Mills is able to guide Kim to his location by instructing her to draw circles on a map and throw grenades from the roof at various intervals (seriously, you can’t make this stuff up). Their escape is even more implausible as Kim, who has failed to pass her driving exam on two occasions, finds herself suddenly able to expertly maneuver through the crowded streets, careening around corners and zipping down alleyways as her father barks directions at her. Oh, and she’s driving stick, too.
Featuring stiff dialogue, poorly choreographed fight scenes, and a horribly grating dubstep soundtrack, Taken 2 is a complete mess. As Neeson stalks from one preposterously convoluted scenario to the next, he struggles mightily to save this film from itself, but director Olivier Megaton seems hell-bent on thwarting him at every turn. This unnecessary sequel lacks nearly everything that made the original film so enjoyable, and hopefully Neeson realizes that he’s much, much better than this.