“Listen to me very carefully” the catchphrase of sorts for Liam Neeson’s immensely successful action film alterego Bryan Mills, the security guard loner and over-protective father who finds himself embroiled in international human trafficking gangsters, serves as Neeson’s call-to-action, jumpstarting each of these pictures into the high octane, truly pleasurable everyman actioners.
Taken 2 (2012) dir. Olivier Megaton
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Rade Serbedzija
By Alan Bacchus
Taken 2, which connects directly to the ending of Taken 1 exudes the same qualities which made the first film a strange but deserved success. The attraction of these pictures is the character of Bryan Mills, heavy-handedly characterized as a sad sack loner, divorced from his wife Lenore (Janssen) who now lives high on the hog in LA luxory, and who while estranged from his daugher Kim (Maggie Grace) tries his best to be as overprotective as the Secret Service.
In the first film, while Kim was on vacation she was ‘taken’ by an Albanian prostitute ring, forcing Neeson into action, and tracking down and killing her kidnappers with a kind of visceral uncompromising force not seen since the days of 80’s icons Chuck Norris or Charles Bronson. Here, he’s in Instanbul with Kim and Lenore on a job, but followed by Albanian Rade Serbedzija (the familiar Euro-baddie from 24 and other action films) seeking revenge for the death of his family and colleagues from the first film.
The structure is the same as Taken 1, a lengthy and arduous set-up, 25mins or so of clumsy exposition establishing the family dynamics and gangster plotting. This time it’s Neeson and Lenore who get taken with Kim as the rescuer. The familiar line ‘Listen to me very carefully’ occurs when Neeson, tied to a pipe in some underground layer, manages call Kim and give her specific instructions on how to find him. The sequence which ensues is remarkable, using his ‘certain set of skills’ and his attention to detail to connect insignificant observations to arrive at his precise location in Instanbul. This scene exemplifies the pleasure of the Taken films and the character of Mills. A seemingly ordinary ‘Joe’ who can switch over into superhero action mode like the flip of a switch.
As in the first film once Mills is set on his task, his ability to focus and execute is a thrilling. Neeson, as a 60 year old man, is still an imposing and impressive physical presence in a fight. Director Olivier Megaton (great name!) uses creative editing to effectively cut in his martial arts double into order make the action believeable. But there’s enough of Neeson kicking ass that we believe it 100%.
Despite some clunky performances in the opening, thematically Luc Besson, as architect of this series, admirably weaves in strong themes of post 9/11 American paranoia and exploiting middle class Americans' fears and ignorance of the outside world, thus rendering these films highly topical and relevant to the current political zeitgiest.
Taken 2 is available on Blu-Ray and DVD from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment