Picks up sort of where Taken (2008) left off, given an interval of a year or so. This time, those victims “taken” are abducted for revenge. The first few minutes are slow, but the pace rapidly picks up, and stays frenetic for the duration. You’ll have a lot more fun with this popcorn actioner if you don’t worry about the plot holes.
The movie opens with a funeral in Albania, memorializing the deaths of numerous thugs dispatched by former CIA operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) in Taken (2008). Prominent among the dead guys is Marko, who led the white slave ring involved in the original abduction. Marko was the son of local warlord Murad Krasniqi (Rade Serbedzija), who vows to the townspeople that he will get revenge on whoever was responsible.
The scene now shifts to LA, where Bryan is interacting with his ex-wife Leni (Famke Janssen) and 19-year-old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). An amusing sequence demonstrates how overprotective a father he can be. The two ladies have a trip planned to China which gets cancelled by Leni’s soon-to-be second ex Stuart. Bryan suggests that they accompany him to Istanbul—the location of his next freelance assignment. The women are vague about their plans, so Bryan is surprised when they greet him in his Istanbul hotel lobby.
Unfortunately, though, there’s little time for fun, as the Albanians have figured out who he is, and where he is. Soon enough, Bryan and Leni get nabbed, and are brought to a dilapidated compound a short distance away. Murad has them bound, and sets up Leni to die slowly via blood loss, while Bryan would watch helplessly. Murad makes the mistake of leaving them alone, which allows Bryan to free himself and Leni, and call Kim via a tiny hidden cellphone sequestered on his person.
He has enough time to instruct Kim on how to create a clever position triangulation scheme, using grenades set off in two places. He listens on the phone to the grenades exploding, and then—similar to counting the seconds between a lighting strike and the sound of thunder—marks the time it takes for him to hear the sound in the ambient. As such, the approximate distance from Kim’s position can be determined. This is then refined with various visual landmarks.
However, Kim herself is in grave danger, so Bryan leaves the now relatively safe Leni behind to rescue his daughter, but a wild car chase ensues, with Kim (who has failed her driver’s test back in California a couple of times) at the wheel. The balance of the action is devoted to Bryan getting Kim safe, and tracking down the re-abducted Leni.
***SPOILERS AND OTHER COMMENTS***
It is amusing that many of the same critics who ignored gaping plot holes in Loopers (2012), which is supposedly a serious science fiction story, are loudly complaining about lapses in Taken 2, even though Taken 2 was never met to be “taken” seriously. How can it be? This pic is simply a good, old-fashioned action/adventure entertainment offering.
Saying that, the dialog is laughable at times, and Maggie Grace is pretty much a constant distraction. It’s one thing to endure her limited acting talents, but she was close to her expiration date portraying a teenager in the original. Four years later, did anyone in the audience believe that she was 19? And, bringing in Luke Grimes to play the boyfriend, because he looks about the same age as Grace, just compounded the error.
Murad is a really stupid villain, and one wonders how he was ever able to develop a loyal following in the first place. By the same token, it is difficult to understand the whole Albanian “family ties” bit in light of his deceased son’s sex-trafficking business. Some of the worst dialog in the movie involves an exchange between Bryan and Murad, where Murad claims to not care that his son was killed because he abducted Bryan’s daughter. Is sex-trafficking OK as long as the girls come from outside your village?
A better story idea would have been to have Leni abducted, with the intent to draw in Bryan. Then, he and Maggie could have worked a father/daughter togetherness thing to save Mom.
I get the feeling that Luc Besson’s production team was purposely poking fun at the geographical ignorance of Americans when Bryan explains to Kim that Istanbul straddles the continents of Europe and Asia, separated by the Bosporus. In the first dig, she asks him how he knows such things, as if this were some obscure fact. The second dig occurs when he—much older, more experienced, and a former CIA operative(!)—replies that he read it in a guidebook. Très drôle.