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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014

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Liam Neeson in "Taken 2."
Liam Neeson in "Taken 2."

You wouldn't be mistaken to skip second "Taken"

For the past few weeks, I've been coming up ways of making the title "Taken 2" sound ridiculous. "Taken 2 the Streets" and "Taken 2 the Limit" were good candidates; a colleague of mine also recommended "Taken 2: Electric Boogaloo."

Yes, all of these fake titles sound hilariously absurd, but they would all be more fitting for the supremely silly sequel to Liam Neeson's 2009 surprise hit.

A few years after the events of the first film, life is back to normal for the one-man Albanian genocide known as Bryan Mills (Neeson). He's still ridiculously protective of Kim, his teenage daughter (Maggie Grace, not particularly convincing as a 29-year-old teenager), who is still attempting to get her driver's license and has a new boyfriend she's not too keen to tell ex-CIA dad about. He's also still separated from his wife (Famke Janssen), but her current husband is becoming more distant – so distant, in fact, that he's never seen –opening the door for their old flame to light back up.

After a family trip to China with the new husband gets nixed, Bryan decides that the girls could join him on a trip to Istanbul, seemingly forgetting his notoriously violent past with folks from Eastern Europe.

Unfortunately, it seems the Albanians haven't been as forgetful, namely an elderly gentleman (Rade Serbedzija) whose son was one of the many gunned down by Mills in the last movie. He's now seeking revenge, and he doesn't just want Kim. No, he wants the whole Mills trio, seemingly forgetting Bryan's certain set of skills that make him very good at finding and killing kidnappers.

The success of the original "Taken" is still baffling. The Euro-produced thriller was already released in theaters in Europe for almost a year before it was brought across the pond, chopped up for a PG-13 rating and dumped into theaters during the desolate cinematic wasteland otherwise known as January. However, director Pierre Morel's film rode Neeson's gritty charisma and its relatable tourism terror plot to a $100 million box office total.

The sequel leans hard on the hope that'll be enough again on the second go-around. Unfortunately for them, it's not. Sure, audiences still have Neeson, but nothing's been added to the formula save for more ridiculousness, and everything that was bad in the first installment has just gotten worse.

Returning writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, apparently misinterpreting everyone's complaints from the previous film, decide the sequel needs even more time spent with the family's tedious bickering back home. Changing the topic from dreams of pop stardom to fears of parallel parking hasn't made the scenes less dull. The hope is to make us care about the family, but the clunky dialogue – combined with the fact that Grace wasn't passing for a teenager in the last film, much less this one three years later – makes it a long slog to get to the action.

When the action does kick in, it's a disappointment. New director Olivier Megaton, the man behind "Transporter 3" and "Colombiana," may have a last name for action, but he doesn't have much of an eye for it. Many of the sequences could've been intense if the viewer could decipher any of it from the mess of confusing edits. The last two fight scenes, when the action should be at its most spectacular, end on lame notes because the audience can't figure out what's happened.

"Taken 2" would be a painful sit if it wasn't for the hilariously preposterous things that happen in the story. An extended sequence involves Kim throwing grenades around Istanbul with absolutely no repercussions. A car chase features Kim – who remember still doesn't have her driver's license – outrunning both Albanian assassins and Turkish police, and then plowing the car into the U.S. Embassy for no other reason than the producers had an explosion quota that needed to be reached.

These scenes provide some mild entertainment, though not the kind "Taken 2" is striving for. The closest the film manages to get to genuine quality is the impressive locations. Oh, and the use of not one but two songs from last year's neon noir "Drive." The tunes didn't help make this brainless sequel any good, but they did allow my mind to wander off to memories of significantly better movies.

Talkbacks

Poeartemer | Oct. 9, 2012 at 1:23 p.m. (report)

34291 I had it on my agenda to see this movie....mostly because Liam Neeson ...does'nt make bad movies. AHA moment.... So, I just rent it instead! Thanks OMC!

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devidia | Oct. 8, 2012 at 1:27 p.m. (report)

"Taken 2: Electric Boogaloo". You stole my talkback joke, Mueller!!!! Damn you!!!!

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mippers | Oct. 8, 2012 at 1:18 p.m. (report)

Matt, thanks for taking to time to author such an honest, well-written review. You impressed me with your writing style and you saved me a few hours that I would have otherwise wasted to see this film.

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