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Not so ‘Taken’ with Neeson sequel

Let’s be honest: The first Taken was awesome. It had everything an action fan could want: kinetic thrills, brutal fights and Liam Neeson being a badass. I had high hopes for the sequel, but boy was I disappointed. Taken 2 is an uneven and boring rehash of every silly action film ever made.

The story is nothing new. Ex-government agent Brian Mills (Neeson) travels to Istanbul with his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) and his daughter (Maggie Grace). After some relaxation, the crap hits the fan, and swarthy Albanian men start trying to kill them. But there’s a twist. These faceless criminals are none other than the family of the men Brian killed in the previous movie. The originality is breathtaking.

There is a lot wrong with this film, so I’ll try to narrow my tirade to a few key points. First, the script is ridiculously bad. Every line feels forced, and nobody is given anything remotely insightful to say. Neeson is stranded in a sea of painfully clichéd lines such as “I need you to focus!” and “I’m so tired of it all.” He also spends much of the film yelling at his daughter as she suddenly becomes an action hero under his watchful eye. The actors who play the villainous Albanians get the short end of the stick. Their lines are so poor that at no point was I worried about them doing any damage at all. They just seemed like a bunch of incompetent, third-rate criminals.

I wish I could say it was only the writers’ faults, but the actors have to take some of the blame. Neeson is on autopilot. All of his actions seem much slower than the first film, and there is no sense of urgency. He has none of the charisma that has made him one of the greatest actors of our time. Grace and Janssen largely just cower and sob, though I have to give credit to Grace for pulling off some sweet moves in the car chase. These poor performances could be forgiven, but it is the Albanian crime lord that really puts the nail in the coffin. Rade Serbedzija is a widely respected Croatian actor, but he makes zero effort here. He is atrocious, spouting off one banal line after another. Every time he was on screen I was looking at my watch wondering when the ordeal would end.

At least the action is engaging, right? Wrong. Director Olivier Megaton edits every scene so choppily that it is nearly impossible to tell what is going on. Many of the cuts were just unnecessary. While showing a truck moving down a road he cut to about 30 different angles in the span of 30 seconds. Every scene felt rushed, and I was robbed of the joy of seeing Neeson crack some skulls.

I went to Taken 2 despite the negative reviews in hopes of some dumb fun, but unfortunately, the fun was late to the party. Don’t waste your time.