In 2008, "Taken" surprised viewers with its relentless action and entertaining story. The inevitable sequel arrived in theaters recently in the lively and flawed form of "Taken 2."
The film follows retired CIA operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) on vacation with his daughter (Maggie Grace) and ex-wife (Famke Janssen) in Istanbul. The family is still recuperating from the events of the first film, in which Bryan's daughter, Kim, was kidnapped in Paris. The trip soon takes a turn for the worst, however, when the father of one of Kim's abductors (Rade Serbedzija) targets Bryan in a vicious vendetta to avenge his son's death.
The first half of "Taken 2" (which lasts a brisk 90 minutes) is as vigorous and ominous as its predecessor, incorporating everything that made the original great. The story unfolds at an excellent pace, dotted with genuinely thrilling action sequences that live up to the reputation of the first film.
Unfortunately, it soon descends into an abyss of clichés and predictability. The action sequences become increasingly lengthy, dull and ridiculous as the plot fizzles to a dissatisfying and underwhelming climax. Thankfully the movie begins to recover with the ending scenes, leaving the viewer with a decent taste while exiting the theater.
The movie also benefits from a commendable cast. Neeson makes a pleasantly witty and coarse return, both as a believable action star and concerned father. However, the film falters with its leading villain. Serbedzija portrays an elderly, vengeful father with a desire to kill his son's murderer. The problem is: He's not dynamic. He remains a generic action villain with a generic plan, and every time his beliefs are challenged, he responds with a robotic, "I don't care." That's not what makes a memorable criminal.
The rest of the movie remains relatively standard. There's some commendable imagery, with director Olivier Megaton providing us with a beautiful glimpse of Istanbul. Composer Nathaniel Méchaly contributes to the film with a throbbing electronic score containing a few surprisingly touching moments. The rest of the cast is adequate.
"Taken 2" remains a decent follow-up to the original. It doesn't truly improve the areas that could have been improved, and it's simply too short to expand on a story that starts with great momentum but spirals out of control. That being said, Neeson's star power is undeniable, and most of the action sequences do offer temporary thrills. Sure, it doesn't take many risks, and it may not live up to the original, but it's still a half-decent action movie. If you're satisfied with that, this is the movie for you.
Stephen Spoth is a junior at Williamsville North High School.
2 1/2 stars (out of 4)Rated PG-13