Taken 2: More Frankly Preposterous Than Its Predecessor

When last we saw retired black-ops agent Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), he was pitching a fit over the kidnapping of his teenage daughter, who’d been snatched by Albanian sex traffickers during a schoolgirl vacation in Paris. This compelled Mills to fly to Paris himself and kill about 500 scuzzballs with his bare hands and use quite a few bullets in order to get the girl back. Now, three years later, home in LA again, he’s still doting on his little princess (still played by Maggie Grace) and also getting along much better with her mother, his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen), an ice queen in the first “Taken,” now considerably defrosted.

So swimmingly is this marital rapprochement going that Mills has an idea. He has to fly to Istanbul for a three-day private-security job (his current line of work), for which he already has packed his minibar-sized case of armaments; when that assignment’s done, why don’t Kim and Lenore fly over to join him for a little Balkan getaway? This is like being invited to spend Christmas of 1941 in Moscow with the Wehrmacht. Would anyone in her right mind go anywhere with a havoc magnet like Mills? Well, two people would.

“Taken 2” is even more frankly preposterous than its predecessor. In fact, I’m pretty sure that French director Olivier Megaton is playing this movie entirely for laughs. After some introductory dithering (Mills is trying to teach Kim how to drive), we join Mom and Dad and daughter in Istanbul, where they immediately are set upon by a gang of Albanian thugs, led by the father (Rade Serbedzija) of one of the many creeps Mills terminated during his earlier Parisian visit. If the picture had a laugh track, it would start rolling right about here.

Driving through the teeming streets with Lenore, Mills realizes he’s being tailed when bullets start smashing through his rear window. Pulling over at a crowded passageway, he orders Lenore out and tells her something very much like: “Go down to the end of this street; make a right; cut across the next square; make another right and then a left at the big red thing, and take a taxi back to the hotel.” Hilariously — given that Lenore never has been in Istanbul before — this almost works. A little later, we see Mills fleeing another pack of pursuers, tearing through a bazaar in a car with Kim at the wheel, getting a literal crash course in driver’s ed.

Most comical of all is the sequence in which Mills, shackled in a basement by the Albanians, manages to phone Kim (it’s complicated) back at the hotel. He tells her to take a couple of grenades from his weapons stash, go up on the roof and hurl one. He faintly hears the resulting explosion, which does much collateral damage. Then he tells Kim to run out along the neighboring rooftops, tossing grenades as she goes, until he can tell by the approaching sound that she’s getting close to where he’s being held. I mean, I ask you — well, no, I don’t.

The movie is also brazenly “Bourne”-like, with much roof leaping and close-in kick fighting and many cars careening through exotic byways and somersaulting through the air. Unfortunately, director Megaton (not his birth surname, I’m delighted to report) has little gift for making all of this uproar coherent. Much of the action is so maniacally chopped up that it’s a chore keeping track of what’s being done to whom. Although, I’m pretty sure that Mills is inflicting most of the pain.

Genre fans may get off on this totally generic film; it’s minor fun and, as I say, quite funny. Spoilsports quickly will realize that they’ve seen all this stuff before. They can take heart, though, in knowing that this time, they’ll have to see it for only 91 minutes.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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