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Taken 2 (2012)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/15/2012

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/17/2013

There's a moment in Taken 2 where Kim (Maggie Grace) is attempting to help her father, Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), figure out where he is in relation to where she is. So, he instructs her to begin setting off hand grenades so that he can listen for the explosion -- somewhat similar to the lightning/thunder scene in Poltergeist. The issue here is that no one in Istanbul -- where this scene is taking place -- seems to notice or take any issue with this young woman setting off grenades left and right, some of which are causing property damage. This should give you an idea of the level of ludicrous which this Luc Besson produced sequel brings us.

Taken 2 opens not long after the events of the first film. Kim and Bryan are back at home in California. Bryan continues to be the devoted father, while his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen), is going through a separation. Bryan is dismayed to learn that Kim has a boyfriend. When Bryan has to go to Turkey for a job (apparently he uses his ex-CIA skills to work as a security consultant) -- he invites Kim and Lenore to join him. Meanwhile, Murad Krasniqi (Rade Serbedzija), the father of one of the men Bryan killed in the first film, has organized a group of Albanian criminals to travel to Istanbul to get revenge. These criminals attempt to abduct Bryan, Lenore, and Kim, and of course, this only makes Bryan mad. Thus begins a game of very violent cat-and-mouse as Bryan does "what he does best".

When Taken opened in January, 2009, it was a surprise hit, bringing in $145 million at the U.S. box office. I say "surprise", because it looked like yet another of Luc Besson's chop-socky happy action films which seem to hit theaters on a regular basis, save for the presence of Liam Neeson. Perhaps it was the simplistic story, or perhaps it was the spectacle of watching then 57-year old Neeson beat up everyone in sight, but for some reason, the movie struck a chord with viewers, re-igniting Neeson's career and making him an action star.

Given the success of that movie, it's not surprising that we get a sequel. I would venture to guess that it was greenlit on opening weekend. What is surprising is that it took over three years to get here. That feeling is compounded when watching Taken 2, because the movie feels like someone which was thrown together over a long weekend. The script once again comes from Besson and veteran action-film writer Robert Mark Kamen. If you thought the story in the first film was stripped-down, wait until you see what happens in the sequel -- it makes Taken look like something that was based on a 600-page novel. Having the families of those killed by Bryan in the first film seek vengeance is a good jumping off point for the sequel, but nothing happens after that. The "twist" here is that Bryan is "taken" this time. After that, the movie just becomes an exercise in watching him escape, Kim bomb the city, and general mayhem ensue. There is no character development with the bad guys and the Kim's boyfriend sub-plot goes nowhere. This is one of those action movies which is all plot and no story. You could easily write an outline which went from scene-to-scene and it would completely capture what happens in the movie.

But, we're not here for the story, right? We're here to watch the now 60-year old Neeson pummel bad guys! Well, you'll probably be disappointed by the action as well. I'm not sure what Besson keeps giving Director Olivier Megaton (worst pseudonym ever) work, as his style is a mess. Just as with his recent effort Colombiana, there are things happening here, but none of them are very interesting. It takes a while for the first action scene to arrive, and when it does, itís pretty lackluster. The film tries to shake things up, but offering a variety -- foot chases, car chases, gunfights, hand-to-hand combat -- but nothing is done to differentiate it from other movies. The editing style in Taken 2 is very annoying. As one would expect, we get a lot of quick-cut action scenes, but there are also many scenes which contain random shots which donít tie in to the rest of the scene. (Even my wife said, ďWhat was that?Ē) The movie reaches its oddest point when Kim drives like Joie Chitwood (look it up) through Istanbul, despite the fact that we learned at the outset that she doesnít have a driverís license. Was she failing the driverís test because she drove like her dad? The movie has no interest in dealing in details like this.

Taken 2 is one of those movies which is somewhat difficult to judge. The fact that Neeson, Janssen, and Grace returned for the sequel bodes well and the use of the Turkish locations adds a bit of clout to the film. Itís clearly not a low-budget endeavor. However, that doesnít change the fact that the energy from the first film isnít present here and the story has no depth. If this was a one-off late-night cable action movie, it wouldnít seem so bad. But, we expected more from this sequel and what we get is clearly second rate. The kidnappees in the film arenít the only ones who were taken.

Taken 2 only reinforced my stance of not visiting Eastern Europe on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no unintentional grain and no defects from the source material. As with all films of this ilk, there are some grainy moments to give it that ďgrittyĒ feel, but these arenít connected to the transfer. The level of detail is good, as we can see textures on objects. The colors look fine and the image is never overly dark or bright. The depth is particularly good, which adds to the shots down the long, narrow streets. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. As one would hope, the action scenes provide impressive effects. The stereo effects highlight objects moving from side-to-side, or coming into the frame (this is nicely done). The surround effects really come to life during the car chase, although they donít always highlight individual sounds. The explosions offer palpable subwoofer effects which are never obnoxious.

The Taken 2 Blu-ray Disc contains a smattering of extras. Viewers can choose to watch the extended cut in "Black Ops Field Manual" mode, which offers pop-up video trivia about the story and the characters (but not about the movie and the actors) and offers a running tally of how many people Bryan Mills has injured and killed and how far he has traveled. The Disc contains five DELETED SCENES which run about 7 minutes. This includes a longer opening scene and some incidental action scenes. We also get the "full" version of the foot chase from the third act. We also get an "Alternate Ending" which runs some 25 minutes and opens with a note from Director Megaton stating that the film originally had a different structure. This is essentially identical to the third act of the movie, save for one small change which turns Bryan into a man out for revenge, rather than someone on a rescue mission. "Sam's Tools of the Trade" is an interactive feature which allows the viewer to check out the various items in Bryan's special case. "FX Movie Channel Presents In Character with Liam Neeson" (5 minutes) offers an interview with the actor. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.