In which obsessively compulsive CIA veteran Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) and his estranged family are abducted by a village of Albanian Muslims hell-bent on avenging the other half of the village, whom Mills single-handedly slaughtered in Taken 1. I hadn’t had the pleasure of that particular piece of cinema as I took my seat in the Odeon Leicester Square: it turned out not to matter.
We open with a glamorous helicopter shot of an unglamorous Albanian truck, bouncing up a dirt road to a communal hilltop burial ground where, clutching a fistful of dust over his family’s manifold fallen, patriarchal villain Murad (Rade Serbedzija) gravely swears vengeance on Mills’ head, beseeching most of what remains of his extended family (still handsomely stocked with uncles, second cousins and nephews) to join him.
That Mills only came to be involved after the village kidnapped his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) and sold her (among others) into slavery does not upset the Albanians’ moral calculus. Burial ceremonies complete, they mount a convoy of dusty Mercs and make haste to Istanbul where, as luck would have it, Bryan is attempting a low-key reconciliation with his wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) and daughter (yes: the same one who was kidnapped last time she left L.A: clearly not the lesson-learning type).
Mills’ patiently-recounted OCD, which sees him insist on (ahem) polishing his own bonnet at the car wash, seems not to extend to keeping his dependents reasonably out of harm’s way: After a scene-setting educational ride across the Bosphorus (“it’s where East meets West” etc etc) and the obligatory aerial shot of Istanbul’s grand mosque as the muezzin calls the faithful to prayer, the Albanian Mercs roll in. Cue mayhem.
This is big, dumb fun on a Luc Besson scale. As long as you can balance between being neither taking it at all seriously nor finding it entirely absurd (a challenge with which most of the audience, including your correspondent, struggled) it will keep you entertained.
Joyously-named director Olivier Megaton – vraiment de l’ecole Besson – certainly gives it the by name/by nature treatment: many bottomless semi-automatic magazines, carelessly-tossed hand grenades, twisted necks, caved-in skulls, improvised shivs, exploding cars and kick boxing demonstrations are required to progress a surprisingly tedious plot to a very pre-ordained conclusion. Megaton doesn’t even bother with a they-think-its-all-over-but-he’s-not-yet-dead final scene bad-guy reprise. Instead, proceedings draw to a indecently hasty conclusion, the film ending with a bookend glamorous helicopter shot of – wait for it – the family eating waffles in a pier-end restaurant in Venice Beach. This about says it all.
Why Liam Neeson, a sound actor and surely the sine qua non of the picture, felt at all compelled to make it is a mystery. There is little craft in it, and and the dialogue only works as irony.
Taken 2 is in cinemas 4th October 2012.
Director: Olivier Megaton
Stars: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Rade Serbedzija
Running Time: 91m