A version of this review appeared in The Age, October 4, 2012.
In the original Taken (2008), retired CIA operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) embarked on a rampage through Paris to save his teenage daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) from a fate worse than death. Now, it transpires that one of the human traffickers he killed had a powerful father of his own, an Albanian warlord (Rade Serbedzija) bent on vengeance. Will this cycle of violence ever end? Not if writer-producer Luc Besson has anything to do with it, at least while these movies keep turning a profit.
Yet it's hard to say if Taken 2 will attract the cult following of the original; it lacks the brutality and the sleazy exploitation edge. A family trip to Istanbul leads into a rehash of the kidnapping storyline, but the sex trade no longer plays a significant role. Neeson's soft-spoken Angry Dad routine has been flattened into burlesque, giving him little to do but alternate between the roles of bumbling dork and ultra-efficient killer.
Still, this is a more entertaining film than its predecessor, once the action gets going and the director Olivier Megaton has an excuse to fragment space and time (thereby hiding Neeson's weaknesses as a martial artist). There's a car chase worthy of the Mad Max series, and a number of scenes demonstrate how mobile phones have opened up new editing possibilities, with Kim fleeing from hoodlums while Bryan mutters instructions from afar. The moment when the characters finally connect spatially provides one definition of “pure cinema”.