Hilarious Taken Sequel Too Much of a Funny Thing
Taken was not the greatest action film ever made, but it did get the job done while also striking quite the nerve at the box office. Audiences flocked to see the story of retired CIA operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) battling his way through Paris to save his vacationing daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) from a life of sexual slavery. The 2009 smash is a kinetic thrill ride, and for all the inherent improbability contained in Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) and Robert Mark Kamen’s (Kiss of the Dragon) script, the movie got the job done with gut-punching ferocity.
When your movie makes over $145-million at the domestic box office on a budget of $25-million, a sequel is pretty much inevitable. Besson and Kamen were going to write one and Fox was going to pay Neeson whatever he wanted to return to the role. This was a given. And so now here comes Taken 2, directed by Transporter 3 and Columbiana auteur Olivier Megaton, pistol-whipping its way into theatres with about as much subtly as a slap in the face.
I’d like to say the four-year wait was worth it. That this time in development allowed Besson and Kamen to come up with a scenario that took Neeson’s character into new environments where his ‘special set of skills’ could be put into imaginative use. I’d like to say lots of things, like Taken 2 is a worthy follow-up that outdoes its predecessor. But I’d also like to have a million dollars in my bank account and David Boreanaz at my doorstep asking me out on a date, and as neither of those things is going to happen, it doesn’t take Nostradamus to predict what it is I’m actually going to say.
Taken 2 is a colossal misfire. If the original was implausible, this sequel ups the ante in that department ten-fold, the film getting increasingly ludicrous as it goes along until the whole thing becomes downright laughable. Out loud laughable. Unintentionally hilarious. Continuously. Seemingly without end. I think I laughed harder and longer watching this so-called ‘action’ movie than I did in any honest to goodness comedy released in 2012 so far. It’s hysterical, and other than one gut-wrenching display of (admittedly deserved) ultra-violence right at the very end, this sequel is so gosh darn hysterical I’m tempted to recommend it even though on the whole it’s frankly terrible.
Not sure how much time has passed since the first film, but the sequel picks up with Mills heading to Istanbul while his daughter Kim agonizes over her impending driver’s exam. At the same time, his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) is on the cusp of another divorce. Being the great guy that he is Mills invites both women to Europe, and he’ll join them in the hotel for some quality family time once his weekend security detail is completed.
This was a bad idea. The father (Rade Serbedzija) of one of the men Mills killed rescuing Kim wants his revenge, assembling a team of Albanian thugs, most also with ties to people the former government agent has killed, to assist him. Soon the ex-CIA operative is putting his lethal set of skills to use for a second time, forced to protect both the daughter he adores and the former wife he still loves from a madman thirsty for blood.
As B-grade scenarios go, this one isn’t bad. It hits most of the marks it aims for with perfunctory precision. But it does so with such idiotic glee, reveling in moments so unintentionally silly I almost began to wonder if this was some Hot Shots-style parody and not a legit sequel. People throw grenades all over Istanbul as sonic guide markers, transform into ace stunt drivers with zero training and survive having their vehicle eviscerated by a high-caliber canon with nary a scratch. They crash through barriers, leap over rooftops and scale cliff-like walls as if they’d been doing it all of their lives, all the while the villains act like second-rate nincompoops lifted from some Chuck Norris or Charles Bronson Cannon Films actioner circa 1982.
I haven’t mentioned the dialogue, but it’s bad. Really bad. The lines Besson and Kames have written are so mind-blowingly hysterical it almost defies belief. It’s one inadvertent zinger after another, and by the time Mills is barking at his daughter as they tear through some tiny cobblestone streets while she shifts gears with remarkable speed, I could no longer conceal my own laughter.
In the grand scheme of things none of this matters much. Taken 2 is a bad movie. Full stop. Yet, even with that being the case, I had an uproarious time watching it. It’s maybe the year’s best comedy. The entire promo audience was in utter hysterics throughout. This sequel is a total hoot. Problem is, it’s not meant to be one.
Film Rating: 1½ (out of 4)