Friday, October 26, 2012

Review: Taken 2

…Meh.

I’m sorry is that vague? Well that’s the best I’ve really got right now. I honestly can’t think of a time that a single three letter word has summed up my opinion on a movie so thoroughly. It’s not even bad in the strictest sense, just not good. So meh will probably sum up the majority of this review.

So yeah, we all remember Taken right? No, it wasn’t the greatest movie ever made, just a really solid, really well made action movie. Okay so there was the odd bit of troubling subtext in the kinda racist undertones of the villains and yeah it got kinda old with the whole “Father knows best thing,” but still. It was tightly focused, well made, intensely realistic and interestingly put together, and part of what made it good was how realistic and direct it was.

The sequel actually starts from an interesting concept, IE that most of the villains in this one are the family and friends of the people Liam killed in the first one. That’s an interesting idea about revenge and how it goes both ways, but the movie refuses to do anything with it, apart from a pair of awkward scenes, and for the most part the main character, who is at least theoretically interesting from that standpoint, mostly acts like a one dimensional Bond villain. The plot consists of Liam Neeson (I’m sure his character had a name but fuck you, Liam Neeson) on vacation/assignment in Istanbul. His family arrives for some contrived reasons and within 10 minutes Liam and ex-wife have been kidnapped (or Taken, if you will) by the villains and it’s up to daughter to evade capture and help Liam escape.

This is a perfect example of how a good movie, with a few changes, can really not be a good movie anymore. The biggest is a change in scope, IE where the first one was tight and realistic enough to make Hanna blush, the sequel instantly turns Liam into…well Superman essentially. Perfect example, when Liam is Taken (capitalization required) he finds out where he is by having his daughter throw grenades and listen for the echo. No really, that’s a thing that happens. All of this makes the movie really hard to take seriously sometimes and it makes the sequences where he has to screw up for the plot to keep going harder to buy and really sucks the tension out of the room all around.

All of the big scale action sequences have this issue, where they’re so over the top and silly that you end up bursting out with inappropriate laughter at all the wrong places. But at least that renders them better than the close quarters sequences which are over-edited into mush. And this really irritates when they come clashing together, like a sequence where Liam has to fight the mini-boss guy in a perfectly round room with a raised platform (no, I’m not kidding).

Some of this could be salvaged by the story, but the script is weak all around and, I’m sorry, but the whole ‘evil foreigner’ thing in this movie is getting kind of icky. Yeah it was there in the first one too, but there it was helped along by some intense moral ambiguity, vis a vis what Liam’s character being somewhat dark and outright bad in some cases. Here the villains are so one dimensional and the ‘evil foreigner’ thing laid on so thick it starts to become a little uncomfortable for me.

Look, I know we all like Liam Neeson and I know we all like an action movie, but this one is just…not very good. It’s not tense, it’s not exciting, it’s not particularly engaging it’s just kind of dull. You want smart action? Go see Looper. You want silly action? Go see Dredd. You want Liam Neeson? Go rent the original, or The Grey. You want boring action? I guess you could go see this, but why would you want to?

Elessar is a 22 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he’s pretty sure the ‘memorizing direction scene’ would be a direct lift from Sneakers if anyone else but him remembered that movie.

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