Movie Review: "Taken 2"; Star Cast: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace; Director: Olivier Megaton; Rating: *** - entertaining replay of the original.
Frech cinema director - and now Hollywood writer and producer - Luc Besson has been a consistent master of the stylized action genre. With clockwork-like precision he has written and produced some of the most famous action series of the last decade, be it the "Transporter", "Taxi" or now the "Taken" series.
Liam Neeson, who was 56 in 2008 when the original "Taken" came out, was the last guy one would have thought to have turned an action star, a la Steven Seagal. Yet the film surprised everyone with the raw energy of Neeson and its immense emotional pull.
If there is any saving grace in "Taken 2", which is mostly more of the same elements in the first, it is once again Neeson -- at 60 he packs in a punch even Rocky Balboa aka Sylvester Stallone would supremely envy.
On a trip to Istanbul, former CIA spy and now security consultant Bryan Mills (Neeson) and his wife and daughter on a holiday with him, are hunted by the relatives of the men he has killed earlier. He and his wife are captured.
With time running out, his skills are put to the test as he tries to do three things at the same time -- free himself, find his wife and keep his daughter from getting captured. This time he has an ally in his daughter who, wizened by her earlier experiences, does exactly as her father tells her to.
There was a raw neatness and edginess to the first part. Besson and his new director Olivier Megaton ("Transporter 3") try to maintain the same elements here. Though they succeed to a large extent, the surprise is no longer there.
"Taken 2" thus walks a now familiar path. Without much room to either build characters or leave room for sub-plots, it is no surprise that the film goes downhill. Yet, it has enough elements to delight those who loved the first and new ones who inadvertently walk into this one.
Always the dependable actor, Liam Neeson becomes the glue that holds this extremely predictable film together. He excels once again as the calculating ex-spy who does not lose his composure no matter what the trouble is. He is proof of how a good actor is always good physically and can rise up to the demands of an action film no matter at what age he is called in to perform.
"Taken" appealed because unlike "Taken 2", it wasn't confined to one corner of one city. The film moved at a break-neck speed through different cities and different locations across Europe. Located almost entirely in Istanbul, "Taken 2" fails in that respect.
The "Taken" series is the story of a one-man killing machine out on a rampage. But unlike the rampage of other characters, Bryan's is one of necessity. He is at once reminiscent of a Jason Bourne, James Bond and Luc Besson's own "Transporter" character from the film of the same name.
Like his other series, the third instalment of the film has already been announced. "Taken 3", will perhaps not 'take' you to unchartered territories, but like this version will delight you enough to ignore problems with it.