Written Review: Taken 2 (2012)

by Jason Pyles
Movie Podcast Weekly.com

Premise: A retired CIA agent who killed several men while rescuing his kidnapped daughter is now pursued by the vengeful family members of his victims.

Review: It’s this simple: If you liked “Taken,” then you will also like “Taken 2.” It’s the same movie, in almost every respect, story beats and all, except this time, his ex-wife is also thrown into the threatened family member mix. This same story, (slightly) different title isn’t necessarily a criticism, because I loved the first movie; I’ve seen “Taken” three times since its release, and I’d rate “Taken” 8.5 out of 10, and I’d recommend buying it.

I have read and heard a lot of attacks on “Taken 2,” where its critics are calling this sequel far-fetched and predictable. Those characteristics are inherent in its predecessor, and are a necessity in order for this story to work as it does. “Taken” and “Taken 2” are male-validation fantasies, where a father and husband is smart enough and strong enough to rescue the women he loves. Films like this are specifically designed to appeal to male viewers’ need to feel powerful and masculine and female viewers’ need to feel safe and protected.

There’s a popular science fiction plotline found in films like “Brainstorm” (1983) and “Total Recall” (1990, 2012) where the user can experience, or more accurately, perceive himself experiencing, certain masculine fantasies. This kind of wish-fulfillment can have a drug-like effect, which is why I refer to the participant or viewer as “the user.” Well, this notion isn’t as science fiction as we might imagine: Indeed, the cinema has been regularly providing such escapist fantasies since the birth of the motion picture (and by the way, we Americans really tuned into this power of film art in the Depression-era 1930s and have been indulging ever since).

I’ve discussed all of the above to illustrate that “Taken” and “Taken 2” are intentionally far-fetched and predictable, because these films are designed to fulfill a certain emotional craving (or even need) within their viewers. They are predictable because we know that our heroic protagonist will be successful in his rescue efforts, and they are far-fetched because, in both films, Liam Neeson’s Bryan Mills character is an unstoppable, one-man army.

After reading comments about “Taken 2” on Twitter where numerous people were calling its plot developments “predictable,” I was reminded of two occasions when my sweet mother blew my mind by stating (with inexplicable surprise) that “Titanic” (1997) and “Pearl Harbor” (2001) were sad movies! Everybody thinks those are sad stories, sure, but nobody is surprised. Again, I am compelled to ask, “What did you think was going to happen?” We don’t go see summer action movies for the hero’s family members to be killed; we watch Lars von Trier’s films or the horror genre for that (and those experiences serve a different purpose).

I did find one comment on Twitter pretty humorous, and it speaks to my next point. Bil Dwyer wrote: “Taken- Shame on you. Taken 2- Shame on me.” Dwyer’s comment was funny but shows a lack of understanding about the nature and purpose of movie sequels. Obviously, the primary reason for a sequel is to cash in on the popularity of a well-received property. But from the moviegoer’s perspective, movie sequels are for giving us more of our favorite characters doing what they do best. (In fact, there’s a meta line of dialogue in “Taken 2” where Liam Neeson is asked what he’s going to do, and he says, “What I do best.”) We only know and love this Bryan Mills character in one context, and that’s when he’s tracking down and killing kidnappers. So, why are we surprised when we opt to see “Taken 2” and it’s just like its predecessor? Do people expect to see Bryan Mills hosting a cooking show in the sequel? No, he’s going to do what he does best: He’s going to kill people.

Summary: So, as I said, if you liked the first film, you should like this one, too. I liked “Taken 2,” and I think “Taken” fans should definitely rent it, but I rated it a little lower than the first precisely because it is a recycled version of the initial story, and I think there was something a little more compelling about the tunnel vision of a father’s hellbent focus to save his daughter.

Verdict: 6.5 out of 10 ( Rental )

Directed by Olivier Megaton
Starring Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Rade Serbedzija
Genre: Action / Crime-Drama / Thriller
Country: USA
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sensuality)
Runtime: 91 minutes.

Trailer: Watch
DVD: N/A
Blu-ray: N/A
U.S. Release Date: October 5, 2012
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