Review by Toby Weidmann
Stars Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Rade Serbedzija, Leland Orser, Luke Grimes, Jon Gries, DB Sweeney, Rade Serbedzija, Kevork Malikyan, Alain Figlarz
Written by Luc Besson & Mark Kamen
Certification UK 12A | US PG-13
Runtime 91 minutes
Directed by Olivier Megaton
Bryan Mills is back! OK, that’s not the most exciting one line sell – whoever heard of an action hero called Bryan? – but for those many fans who were, ahem, taken with the exploits of the ace bodyguard-cum-superspy, played by Neeson, in Pierre Morel’s thrilling 2008 actioner no more words are needed to elicit excitement.
Serving as a direct sequel, Taken 2 picks up the story where the original left off: Bryan is trying to balance his dangerous bodyguard duties with reconnecting with his estranged daughter, Kim (Grace), and ex-wife, Lenore (Janssen). The "girls" pay a surprise visit to Bryan while he’s doing a job in Istanbul, but unbeknown to them the parents and friends of the Albanian men Bryan iced in Paris in the first film have tracked him down and are out for revenge. Mixing up the plot mechanic from the original, this time both Bryan and Lenore are taken with Kim now tasked with rescuing them. When she saves her dad, Bryan is finally let off the leash to hunt down his wife’s kidnappers using his very particular set of skills. Cue carnage!
While there’s no doubting that director Megaton has upped the action stakes and humour from the first film, Taken 2 unfortunately also suffers from that particularly damaging affliction, sequellitus. While the plot is a little preposterous (although not much more than the first) and ponderous in places (see how long it takes you to get bored hearing Bryan count), its biggest problem is its 12A certificate.
The original film did well at the UK box office, taking a highly respectable £6 million, but it really found its audience on DVD and VoD, where great word of mouth propelled it to impressive financial rewards. It seems that, to expand the reach further, Taken 2 has been specifically aimed at a younger audience, with Taken’s original 15 certificate (and 18 certificate on DVD) replaced by a 12A for the sequel. It’s clear the moneymen want Taken 2 to top £10 million – you can almost hear Fox’s accountants rubbing their hands in anticipation.
Action films can still have a 12 certificate and be entertaining – as the recent Bourne and Bond films have illustrated – but the biggest issue with specifically lowering the certificate for a sequel is that it makes a character you’ve spent a whole film setting up as the ultimate badass as somewhat toothless. Although a doting dad, Bryan was also a single-minded stone-cold killer when he had to be, who had no issues in resorting to torture to break the iron will of the sadists he was trying to track. This tells you exactly what you need to know about the character. By cutting away from the violence – as Taken 2 frequently does – not only does it negate the character you love, but it also leads to confusion. There’s one scene in particular where Lenore is apparently stabbed in the neck, but you wouldn’t know it from what you see on screen. Is she supposed to be in peril? Who can tell?
We’re not advocating violence for the sake of violence – we’ll leave that to the Saw films – but one of the best aspects of Taken was its sheer uncompromising brutality, thus reflecting the terrible and revolting world of human trafficking that it was set in. For all its moments of brilliance, and there are some (Kim’s method for locating her dad is priceless), Taken 2’s certification simply prevents it from living up to its original.
According to the BBFC website, the film was originally viewed to provide advice on what needed to be done to make the film a 12A. The BBFC suggested cuts to three scenes “to reduce elements of violence and threat”. The upshot of this is that a 15-certified version of the film will undoubtedly be released on DVD in 2013. If you can wait, it might be better to avoid the theatrical release and pray that by re-inserting those cuts the story will make a little more sense and that the action will be more in keeping with the original. There’s no guarantee, of course – Megaton is not as interesting a director as Morel, for sure – but hopefully it will be better than what is currently onscreen.