TAKEN 2 is an unnecessary follow-up chronicling the further mishaps of the Miller family when they choose to go abroad on vacation again. In TAKEN 1, it was daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) who was kidnapped by the 21st-century version of white slavers, leading to an improbable but rousing rescue by her ex-CIA agent of a father, Bryan (Liam Neeson). That film was silly, but it was also fun, quick-paced, and had Neeson intoning with a ferocious intensity all the ways he was going to save his daughter and kill her kidnappers. Neeson is back, and just as intense, but Bryan and his family are facing something much worse than a grieving father out to avenge the son Bryan murdered in the last film. They are facing a doozy of a ridiculous script, and not even Bryanís very particular skill set can save them. Or the film.
For reasons that donít bear going into, the Millers, father Bryan, daughter Kim, and ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) whoís facing a divorce from her current husband, are all in Istanbul to have a good time and unwind from the trauma of Kimís kidnapping. Unlike the film that tells that story, this one takes its sweet time getting to the action stuff, dithering away an inordinate amount of time on Lenoreís crumbling marriage, her astonishingly good relationship with Bryan, and Bryanís discombobulation that the lovely and nubile Kim has a boyfriend. This is not to say that Neeson isnít in top form effectively intimidating that young man, who is half his age, with a piercing stare and civility dripping with menace. Itís also not to say that the action, when it finally arrives, is worth the wait.
There is a perfunctory feeling at work here. As though the emphasis is strictly on going through the motions of getting the characters separated, kidnapped, escaped, running, getting captured, shot at, car chased, car crashed, shot at some more, then crack some bones and throw in a few scenes of light torture. It all goes down with just about as much energy as reading the preceding list aloud, and it is garnished with banal dialogue that has characters speaking lines of a blazingly obvious nature. Sure, some original elements have been tossed in, but they actually make things worse. Take the way that there is always enough time for Bryan to make a lengthy phone call of an expository nature to Kim, be it when he and Lenore have guns trained on them before being stuffed into getaway cars, or when Bryan is tethered to a pipe awaiting retribution from the grieving father and his cohorts who have conveniently stepped out of the room. That latter conversation in particular doesnít just strain credulity, it snaps it smartly in two, ties it into a series of bow-knots, and then torches them while laughing with maniacal glee. It is during this protracted conversation that Bryan has Kim draw circles on a map of Istanbul in an attempt to create a Venn diagram that will reveal where Bryanís captors have taken him. There are several circles involved, and a hand-grenade. Things get even stranger when Kim, who is a weeping mess when sheís not a pouting teenager, suddenly channels her inner superhero and becomes Lara Croft Daddy Finder, scampering across the rooftops of Istanbul, tossing grenades and running out on cab fares.
If this cluck of a flick makes enough money, there will, of course, be a TAKEN 3, and the seeds for that have been carefully sown here. One of the few instances of such care and attention being shown in the proceedings. Yet instead of that route, a more satisfying film would have the families of all the innocent bystanders killed by the Millers during their desperate escapes chip and hire competent hit men and women to take this troublesome family out once and for all. Barring that, some would settle for a short webisode showing the United States State Department confiscating the Millersí passports maybe even putting them under house arrest to keep them out of future international trouble. Obviously they donít have a clue how to do that for themselves.