In the early 1980s, a company called Cannon Films became synonymous with ultra-low-rent vigilante trash: invariably starring either Charles Bronson or Chuck Norris, these straight-to-video shockers featured wronged men wreaking revenge on criminals (often black or foreign) who messed with their families. If the script for ‘Taken 2’ had dropped on to the desk of a Cannon executive, it would have been laughed out of the room. This is a film that makes the ‘Death Wish’ sequels look like ‘Godfather 2’, that makes the work of Jean-Claude Van Damme look like an Ingmar Bergman box set. It is one of the laziest mainstream films ever.
Where the first ‘Taken’ began with a believably nightmarish scenario – ex-Secret Service operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) was forced to act when his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), was snatched by sex traffickers – the sequel doesn’t bother with old-fashioned fripperies like plot or intrigue. The relatives of the bald, jabbering baddies that Bryan bumped off in the first film now want revenge. They follow him to Istanbul. They try to kill him. They fail. The end.
Much of the blame must fall on writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen (a sequence involving a bag of grenades and a map of Istanbul sparked gales of laughter at a screening), but the real culprit is director Olivier Megaton. The action sequences are punishing: a car chase feels entirely composed of close-ups of smashing glass, spinning tyres and hands grappling with gearsticks, while a punch-up in a sauna is about as much fun as watching someone else play ‘Street Fighter’.
‘Taken 2’ is a cynical film which has only been made, apparently, to squeeze the pockets of anyone who enjoyed the first movie. Why give them the satisfaction?