Review: TAKEN 2 Sets New Standard For Incoherent Action

Brian Clark, European Editor
I'm beginning to suspect that modern action editors have some sort of digital blender that mixes up raw footage of every stunt and arbitrarily adds a cut every half second. How else can we explain Taken 2, which seems unable to even show somebody fall down without cutting to about 30 angles of the same action in the three seconds it takes them to hit the ground?

Whatever the case, Liam Neeson's latest reactionary ass-kicking doesn't leave viewers with a single memorable image, just vague recollections of movement, noise and some forced sentiment.

The plot follows the exact same structure as the first film: It starts with Liam Neeson's character Bryan trying hard but blowing it as a dad, it moves to an exotic location where some bad guys go after Bryan and his family, and concludes with (spoiler) Bryan killing all of them, followed by a schmatlzy denoument. In this case, the location is Istanbul and the bad guy is the father of the human trafficker that Bryan electrocuted back in Paris.

Also not unlike the first one, the film is incredibly stupid. However, in Neeson's last outing, there was still a sense of exhilaration, be it from the film's blunt, no-nonsense pacing or the surprising ferocity of Neeson, who wasn't such an action staple at the time. And while it was perhaps problematic politically, Taken benefited from the unearned sense of empowerment it gave audiences as they watched a decent guy wipe out an entire ring of people participating in the very topical and despicable activity of sexual trafficking.

This time around, the villain's motivation stems from a paper-thin, textbook need for vengeance, and besides the fact that the guy wants to kill Liam Neeson and has apparently unlimited henchmen and guns, we find out almost nothing about him and therefore, never really care much about the action.

The film gets a bit of mileage from Neeson, who is still incredibly watchable regardless of the material, and also from a few instances showcasing Bryan's more nuanced bad guy-fighting skills, like the way he's able to concentrate and remember every turn a car makes when he's tied up in back with a bag over his head.

There's also one pleasantly absurd sequence involving Neeson's daughter (Maggie Grace, looking far too old to be in high school) casually tossing grenades off rooftops that pushes the film's constant implausibility past the point of stupidity and into the realm of sly genius. If only director Olivier Megaton had pushed the film further in this direction, this unnecessary retread may not have felt so bland.

Despite these few pleasures, the film mostly consists of tone-deaf family drama and completely incoherent violence. Besides the choppy editing, Megaton seems to have no idea how to use the spaces in Istanbul, and the result is a film that takes one of the world's most diverse, vibrant and beautiful cities and transforms it into a nondescript series of buildings and narrow streets with occasional street vendors. Even what should have been an inventive, pulse-pounding car chase through the city's crowded streets comes off as confusing and dull.

The film's script was clearly aiming to please fans of the first film who simply wanted to see the exact same movie in a different location. That's fine, and probably all we should expect from a sequel which exists solely because the first film was a surprise hit. But even with a lazy script, action movies still have the obligation to up the "wow" factor and offer a set piece or two that makes audiences sit up in their seat with wonder. The relentless action sequences in Taken 2 on the other hand, left me astounded only in the sense that I had no idea what the hell just happened.

This film was reviewed from its Premiere in Paris, France.  
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  • B. Waters

    Megaton just isn't half the director virtually everyone else in Besson's stable of directors is. Baffling that he's the one getting the high profile Western releases.

  • BelmontHeir

    You hit it right on the head. Transporter 3 and Columbiana were arguably the worst films Besson has had his name attached to, particularly Transporter 3, because Megaton simply does not know how to film action. His fight scenes are edited to the point of abstraction. It's a shame that he keeps receiving work.

  • oilgun

    What could we expect, the first one was total crap

  • Ronald Swanson

    Fuck off.

  • Tyler Foster

    I have been concerned for Taken 2 since they announced Megaton as director. I hope I enjoy it more than you.

  • Paolo

    I love how you start your review... "
    I'm beginning to suspect that modern action editors have some sort of digital blender that mixes up raw footage of every stunt and arbitrarily adds a cut every half second. How else can we explainTaken 2, which seems unable to even show somebody fall down without cutting to about 30 angles of the same action in the three seconds it takes them to hit the ground"

    Sometimes I wonder if people pay as much to editing today as they used to...I just finally saw The French Connection last month and was blown away by it...and each cut in that film was done deliberately and was always pushing the story forward...today if you need 30 cuts today to just show someone falling down how can you say we have evolved into better filmmakers! :-) But then again Taken 2 should never be compared with The French Connection, but people should always steal from the masters....just like Steve Jobs!

  • Clarikie beat me to the punch with his screening in Europe - tonight's Toronto-based press/public screening didn't go particularly well at all (save for the very silly DIE HARD V trailer that proved more memorable than TAKEN 2).

    There's loads wrong with this film, but editing is certainly tops (well, bottoms). Between the way they've set the shutter while shooting the action causing dropped-frame gymnastics, and a cut/cut/cut/cut stacatto style that's incredibly tedious, the film manages to reach new lows for this type of big-ish budget action movie.

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