By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — We were taken with Taken. With Taken 2, we’ve just been taken.
Taken was a tough, tense, crisply efficient, high-speed action thriller and escapist fantasy nightmare. The sequel is a pale imitation, a virtual demonstration of what not to do when concocting a sequel.
Liam Neeson returns in the role he created in the 2008 original, as retired CIA operative Bryan Mills, who rescued his kidnapped daughter Kim, played by Maggie Grace, from sex and drug traffickers.
Mills is now completing a private-security assignment in Istanbul when his daughter and previously estranged ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen), with whom he has reconciled, surprise him by joining him for a vacation in the Middle East.
But Bryan and Lenore are taken hostage by revenge-seeking Albanians working for the thug (Rene Serbedziya) who engineered the previous kidnapping and whose son was killed by Mills during the rescue.
Director Olivier Megaton (Transporter 3, Colombiana) maintains breathless pacing throughout his bare-bones thriller, but the editing lets him down, especially in often-incoherent or haphazard action sequences.
The script by producer Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen avoids tinkering with the formula, but never really achieves credibility, which would not be as bothersome if this sequelitis-suffering successor conveyed the sense of urgency of its predecessor.
But whereas Taken’s Mills was highly skilled, remarkably fearless, and endlessly resourceful, Taken 2’s Mills’ skills and resourcefulness are highly implausible if not impossible.
Much of the edge has been removed and the action diluted as a result of coy cutting that seems designed to disguise the graphic carnage and the film’s sadistic streak, even though both films are rated PG-13.
As for the palpable delight we felt at the novelty of a real actor as no-nonsense action hero in the original, with Neeson and his undeniably commanding screen presence lending gravitas to his violent vigilante, it has nonetheless given way to a been-there-seen-that reprise as Neeson and his scripters return once too often to the action well.
As much a remake as a sequel, Taken 2 kicks off by raising the contrivance level to new heights with its credulity-straining premise, and the law of diminishing returns kicks in almost immediately.
So we’ll recycle 1½ stars out of 4 for this lazy, half-hearted, one-dimensional followup dose of high-octane revenge. The by-the-numbers Taken 2 is a token two.