Zimbio Review - 'Taken 2,' the Closest We're Gonna Get to 'Commando'

(20th Century Fox | Getty Images)
The Bottom Line
Should you see it?

It's brainless, but brainless fun, and there's not enough of these types of movies made anymore.
Liam Neeson is an unlikely action star. He was surely surprised when his little movie, Taken, made bags of cash in 2008, setting up the inevitable sequel this year. Taken worked because it was an ode to a (not-so) forgotten age. Made on a relatively miniscule $26 million budget, the film used old-time stunt work and explosives paired with Neeson's growling, one-liner-filled performance to surprise the box office. It's rare to see a 60-year-old star given his own action vehicle, but Neeson is so respected as an actor, you buy every cliched one-liner he spits just as much as you buy his MacGyver-like ingenuity.

Action movies ruled the late '80s and early '90s by handing a revenge story over to one man: an Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steven Seagal, or a Jean Claude Van Damme. Commando, Out For Justice, Lionheart... these movies were beloved by audiences everywhere for their campy over the top violence and great one-liners. Sadly, the lone hero action film has gone the way of the western, but Taken 2 has brought the genre back.

The plot is simple. Bryan Mills (Neeson) made mince-meat of some powerful Albanian gangsters in Taken, but, apparantly, they were the "sons and grandsons, fathers and husbands" of other bad guys, so naturally, the relatives want revenge. I guess the women in the family didn't mind their sons and husbands getting whacked, the movie only shows us bad men looking for Mills, no bad women. 

While the story isn't original, it does entertain. Mindless watchable sequels have continuity and Taken 2 manages that, picking up where the last one left off. It plays the whole "my dad is a super spy" thing to a tee as Mills tracks down his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) at her new boyfriend's house by following the GPS chip he installed in her phone. She's incredulous, but she was sold into a middle-eastern prostitution ring not so long ago.

Which leads us to the biggest suspension-of-disbelief moment: Mills invites the fam to spend time with him while he's on assignment in Istanbul. Just spit-balling here, but if my daughter was kidnapped and sold into prostitution, the last place I'd invite her is anywhere near where that could happen again. But that's just me.

The film really begins when head villain Murad Krasniqi (the always great Rade Serbedzija) plots to find and destroy Mills. He and his gang of unshaven Albanian thugs track him down in Istanbul and it's a bonus Mills' family happens to be along for the ride. This time Kim is spared abduction, and instead, Mills and his ex-wife Lenny (Famke Janssen) are. Mills still has a thing for Lenny, which is established early, so you know when he escapes, he's going to beat the shit out of everyone. Daughter, ex-wife... if you mess with a family member of Bryan Mills, you're going to get your elbow snapped.

Something interesting happens when Mills makes the phone call we've all been waiting for. While one Albanian has a gun to Lenny's head, and a gang of others close in on him, Mills calmly takes out his cell phone and calls his daughter. "Kim, your mother and I are going to be taken." (Cue applause). It's insane the thugs would stop and watch Mills make a phone call for no reason but Taken 2 is full of fan-friendly moments like this and the filmmakers were wise to give us what we came to see.

Director Olivier Megaton's (is that his real name?) style falters somehat during the fight scenes. Although the frantic camera work was probably necessary to make Neeson look like a legit action star, there're parts where punches are thrown in a flurry and then suddenly somebody's on the ground. Continuity is sacrificed for style. But who really cares?

Also, who really cares that when Mills is captured, the Albanians all have a soccer game to watch or the guard falls asleep? Who cares the film dates itself with non-stop iPhone conversations and Skype calls? Who cares that Taken 2 steals that hypnotic Chromatics song off the Drive soundtrack? Neeson ain't Frank Sinatra, and this ain't The Manchurian Candidate. It's Taken 2, and it's the closest we're going to get to the glory days of Commando or Hard to Kill. Enjoy it.

See more photos of Maggie Grace here:
  • Maggie Grace in Maggie Grace in Hollywood
  • Maggie Grace in 2012 Metropolitan Opera Season Opening Night "L&squot;Elisir D&squot;Amore"
  • Maggie Grace in "Won&squot;t Back Down" New York Premiere
  • Maggie Grace in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2" At San Diego Comic-Con 2012
  • Maggie Grace in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2" VIP Comic-Con Celebration Sponsored By Fandango
  • Maggie Grace in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2" San Diego Comic-Con Fan Event
  • Maggie Grace in James Van Der Beek is interviewed by Mario Lopez as he appears on an episode of "Extra" at the Grove in Los Angeles
  • Maggie Grace in "Evita" Opening Night New Star Cast
Senior Editor at Zimbio. I'll take Johnny Clay, the Rev. Harry Powell, and Annie Savoy. You can have the rest.