Taken 2

Sometimes after watching an action flick -- or even during, if it's not very good -- I wonder a little about the aftermath. You know, the hero has just triumphed over the bad guys and is all worn out and wounded, the bodies of his fallen enemies all around him. And then the cops show up in droves to arrest him, wanting to know what, exactly, this heavily-armed maniac thinks he's doing. They never show the kind of fast-talking that must require, and I think they should one of these times, or at least discuss it a little. That happens very rarely, sadly.

They still don't quite do that here, but it does deal with the obvious question raised in any revenge movie; namely where the revenge stops. In the old Greek tragedies they'd run around killing the people who killed their son, spouse, or whoever, each new death sparking a fresh round of revenge, until the deities couldn't stand it any longer and showed up to tell everyone to knock it off. (Deities don't show up here, by the way. Liam Neeson does not channel his performance from Wrath of the Titans or anything.)

But he killed an awful lot of people in the first Taken, and they had families, too. Now the families are mad and looking for vengeance, led by Rade Serbedzija of X-Men: First Class. As this plot brews, Liam -- I mean Bryan, Bryan Mills -- learns that his ex Lenore (Famke Janssen) is having marital problems. Worse, daughter Kim (Maggie Grace of Lockout) has (*gasp*) a boyfriend. I don't know, maybe he expected her to become a nun or something.

Anyway, Bryan has to do some work in Istanbul, and asks Lenore and Kim if they'd want to join him there when he's done with his assignment. Shockingly, the assignment, protecting some visiting dignitary, goes swimmingly. It's a little later on when everything goes horribly awry. Of course, because later Bryan isn't wearing a bulletproof vest or armed to the teeth like he would have been if everything had gone awry a little sooner. You have to make these things challenging, after all.

As we know from the first movie, Bryan is too fundamentally paranoid to be completely without resources, and he certainly has his wits about him at all times, but it's interesting to see him have to struggle and scramble to do the things he needs to do, totally making up plans as he goes along. And Maggie Grace gets to actually do stuff this time around, which is nice, though I can't say the same for Famke Janssen. Bryan develops a truly alarming habit of leaving her behind all the time, insisting that she's safe, when that is manifestly not the case.

Since they're in Istanbul, they get to take full advantage of that wonderful skywalk along the rooftops. It makes sense to have such a thing when a city is as crowded as Istanbul, but no one seems to use it. I think it would be fun to have some random passersby wandering through while people are chasing each other. It would be hard to pass people, though. There's no slow lane up there.

The film is a veritable how-to guide for what to do if you find yourself kidnapped in a strange city -- assuming you have all sorts of black ops connections already, of course -- but aside from the ingenious tricks Bryan uses, there are some remarkably silly parts, too. He pauses in the middle of a standoff with the angry men looking for vengeance to make a phone call. A phone call. And no one finds it odd or points out that he should probably be paying more attention to the guys right in front of him who are holding guns and menacing one of his loved ones.

So it has its ups and downs, all right, but it was overall quite entertaining. I gave the first one three out of five, and I guess we'll go for the same here. I considering adding another quarter, but I had to subtract it due to the wobbly fight scenes, during which it often became difficult to tell who was being beaten up by whom, and as you can imagine, that's a very important thing to know in an action film. There's also a neat little reference to Drive that I liked. The only part I can't figure out is why in the world people keep right on making Liam Neeson angry.

Liam talking on his cell. Kinda drains all the tension out of the fight scene.


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