1 hour, 31 minutes
About 15 minutes into the new international action thriller “Taken 2,” I was embarrassed to hear distinguished actor Liam Neeson forced to utter the phrase “Don’t go there,” and I realized that perhaps I have a problem.
Most assuredly, “Taken 2” is an awful movie, but the problem is mine, because I knew it would be awful, and I came anyway. It’s this compulsion I have to watch action movies. It’s silly. I convinced myself that the other new release of the week, “Pitch Perfect” was little more than a cheesy knock-off of “Glee” and “Bridesmaids,” and not worth my time. But what if that’s all it was? So what? I like “Glee” and I liked “Bridesmaids,” and I thought the first “Taken” was terrible. Why would I subject myself to a movie I knew deep down I wouldn’t like? It’s either a bottomless well of optimism or a desperate cry for help.
I wonder if it’s the same for Liam Neeson? Either that, or he was contractually obligated to make this movie, because he certainly didn’t seem all that invested in it. He returns here as Bryan Mills. Not long after the events of the first film, in which Mills tracks down and kills the Albanian sex slavers who kidnapped his teenage daughter, we find our hero trying to reconnect with his ex-wife and daughter. Mills, who works as a security guard to rich and famous, has a gig coming up in Istanbul, and asks Lenore, the wife, and Kim, their daughter, to join him afterward. I love how cavalier everyone is about the trip. “You just recently returned from a harrowing ordeal where you were very nearly sold into slavery and I killed everyone involved. You wanna hop on a plane in a few days and fly to Turkey?”
Naturally the trip is a go, and naturally when the girls get there the family is immediately accosted by the revenge-crazed family of all the people that got killed in the first movie. There’s more kidnapping, and then, over the course of an afternoon, (spoiler alert) Bryan kills everybody again. We end with the happy family drinking chocolate milk shakes with Kim’s new boyfriend. “Dad,” she quips, “just try not to shoot this one!” Ha! Ha, ha, ha ... Wow.
There’re endless issues with the film, from the actors who seem barely engaged, to the writers who apparently barely finished high school, to the plot device that would attempt to engage our sympathies for the grieving Albanian father and his extended family, and then suggest that this bunch is just as bad, or worse. What kind of people are these Albanians!?
If I had to pick one element, however, that really drags this film into the gutter, I’d have to go with the editing. Believe me, it was a tough call, as the dialogue is atrocious, but for an action movie, it’s imperative that you be able to actually see the action. “Taken 2”, whether due to problems with the initial camera work or because of over-zealousness in the editing bay, is nearly impossible to keep your eyes on. The cuts are so rapid and numerous during the action sequences that you really can’t tell what’s going on.
That, however, isn’t the worst of it. The manic editing goes through the entire film, the result being that the number of scenes where the camera remains still and steady on one subject for more than a few seconds can be counted on one hand. There’s a small 2-minute scene of dialogue between Bryan and Kim on the deck of a barge about halfway in. No action, nothing of real import — just some establishing exposition, and I counted over a dozen cuts. Shot from Bryan’s perspective. Shot from Kim’s. Shot from the back of the boat. Now the side. Back to Kim. Now from the front. I half-expected a shot from their laps, to be followed by a helicopter fly-by shot.
There’s a tense scene where Bryan is walking down a hall, looking for someone to shoot. In this approximately 20-second scene, I counted 17 cuts. How is that possible? If you want to get a sense of what this is like, without having to subject yourself to this awful movie, just walk down a hallway in your house while blinking rapidly. Try not to run into the wall.
Because “Taken 2” is making huge money at the box office right now, they’re already discussing the possibility of a “Taken 3.” I don’t begrudge Liam Neeson a huge payday — he’s earned it — but I sincerely hope Famke Janssen, who plays Lenore, turns another sequel down. Janssen is a very good actress who is reduced to a simpering piece of background furniture in this film. They could have had a mannequin play the part for as much as they asked of her. I was embarrassed every time she was on screen.
Then again, I’m embarrassed for all of them. And for me, because I paid hard-earned money to see this dreck. “Pitch Perfect” is getting rave reviews from sources I trust. I can’t actually recommend it, because I wasn’t smart enough to go, but perhaps you will not make the same mistake I did.
“Taken 2” is rated PG-13 for disturbing scenes of torture, numerous violent deaths, language, and sensuality. Wait. PG-13? That can’t be right. Yep. PG-13. Thanks MPAA!
Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.