Thursday, 11 October 2012

Film Review: Taken 2 (2012)

Director: Olivier Megaton
Writer: Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
Stars: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen and Maggie Grace

Taken 2 is the worst film of the year and every criticism that follows is on the screen for all to see. This film is so atrociously made that it made me angry that I stayed until the end and didn’t leave on the three separate milestones of incompetence that was being screened before my eyes.

There are many films I’ve seen (including several this year) that I’d award one star and even a few I’d say were zero stars, but I never thought I’d experience anything as woefully lazy, amateurish, and laugh-out-loud terrible from a major studio release as that of Taken 2. It is a film without a single positive found within its 90 minute running time. Even though some films are terrible, I can at least say they’ve tried but failed miserably in an attempt to do something new or re-tell a story we’ve seen before or that there was at least a single well-crafted shot amongst the wreckage; but I cannot in good conscience recommend anything about this film.

The first Taken was by no means a great film and had a truly diabolical opening 20 minutes, but it was undeniably fun once it got going and delivered enough action, fights, and shootouts to make it one of the better straight-up action films of the last few years, even if the competition is slim for the genre as we knew it is all but dead. For all of his “particular set of skills” Liam Neeson’s Bryan Mills was a paper-thin character who was there to serve a single purpose and he did that well, but there was never, ever any scope once Taken ended to revisit him. Sequels are made, of course, to cash in on the success of a first film and I won’t suggest that all sequels are merely money making exercises but surely someone could have come up with a better story than the premise of this trash.

And so begins my Top 10 reasons as to why Taken 2 is nothing short of a total and utter disaster.

1. The plot: The fathers and brothers, nephews and first cousins twice removed want to get revenge on Mills for killing their relations in the first film. Men who were kidnapping teenage girls for sex trafficking, I might add. Moreover, the lead ‘bad guy’ and his followers isn’t even linked to any crime outfit or gang related to the first film and we have no idea who he is or if he and (apparently) the rest of Albania think that sex trafficking is an honest way to make a living. He could be a bus driver for all the script cares to tell us.

2. The opening 20 minutes: Equally as bad as the opening act of the first film, minus Holly Valance (OK, maybe this film does have one good point) but with added ‘relationship drama’ between Mills and his ex-wife and then the daughter, Kim. No one in this film, including the usually excellent Neeson, looks as though they believe in a single word they are saying. That’s probably because it’s got all the meaning and depth of a fortune cookie.

3. The editing: My personal favourite! The film has been edited within an inch of its life to the point where not only can you not tell what is happening and thus making the fights and actions unintelligible, it leaves Neeson looking like he couldn’t handle the pace. Some of the shots clearly show punches and kicks not connecting and some are reused at least four times in the car chase (see below). Either the director didn’t get enough coverage or the editor was a child with scissors, but either way the final product is sub-standard. You wouldn’t accept a novel being published with spelling mistakes or an album released without the songs being mixed properly, so why should we accept a film that isn’t edited to even the most basic of standards? Moreover, the film was cut to get a 12A or PG-13 rating which makes the whole thing look even worse. The way the lead bad guy is killed is clumsy beyond belief – was it that he pushed really hard?
4. Grenades: Kim, the 18 year old girl, is asked by her dad to throw grenades off the rooftops in Istanbul. One lands under a car and a CGI-produced explosion is flashed on the screen; one lands on a water tower and floods the resident below and we, the audience, are supposed to suspend disbelief at this? Oh, and the third grenade is simply thrown somewhere in Turkey’s biggest and most populated city and the director couldn’t even be bothered to show where it landed. It could have been on the roof of a primary school for all Kim knew, but hey, who cares when you’re an American abroad?

5. Driving at speed... but wait... Kim can’t drive: I had to laugh out loud when Kim is at the wheel of a car because the script says Mills has to do the shooting and can’t drive at the same time – obvious not part of his “particular set of skills” apparently. The fact that an 18 year old girl is driving at such speeds and crashing into cars and reversing and slamming the gears around like she taught Jason Bourne how to drive is one thing, but the film makes it explicitly clear she’s failed her test twice on the familiar roads of Los Angeles and yet they expect us to be thrilled by it all. Pitiful.

6. US Embassy: Personally, I’ve never driven a car through the gates of a US Embassy before so I might be totally off the mark here. However, I’d image that if the soldiers on guard hadn’t shot you before you reached such a point, then they sure as hell wouldn’t give you a couple of minutes to have a heart to heart with your passenger, make a phone call, and let you go without questioning. If Barak Obama drove through the US Embassy in Istanbul they’d be at least a bit of paper work to fill in before he was allowed to go on his merry way.

7. Phone call to friend: I’m paraphrasing here but when Mills drives through the Embassy he calls his friend who we met for all of one minute in the opening act and says “Hi Sam, I’m in a smashed up car in the US Embassy in Istanbul, Can you make a phone call to make sure we don’t get shot.” It would have been nice if the story had told us who Sam was or why he can make such a call, but that’s never even hinted at. He could be a Milkman for all we know. It might be the worst line of dialogue I’ve heard this year.

8. Phone call to Kim: Surrounded by two or three armed men, Mills is allowed to call Kim and tell her exactly what’s going on in a pathetic attempt to replicate his famous speech from the first film. Why he’s allowed to do this is beyond all reasonable levels of logic, even for an action film.

9. Keeping the wife alive: The bad guys make a small cut to Mills’ wife’s neck and hang her upside down and want Mills to watch her bleed to death; It is clear at this point they want her dead for she serves no purpose to them other than to cause Mills misery. Yet why is it, when Mills escapes and kills a load of people, do they KEEP HER ALIVE AND DRAG HER AROUND WITH THEM? It is utterly unfathomable how this film’s logic works.

10. It takes itself so seriously: Despite all of this, the biggest crime is that it all happens without any trace of irony or acknowledgment to the audience that ‘we know it’s stupid, but go along with us anyway’. A few laughs or jokes at its own expense might have helped to relieve some of the hilarious nonsense that followed but there was none to be found.

Stop thinking for yourself verdict: This review could go on but I think enough has been written on this monumental piece of crap. Needless to say, do not see this film at the cinema, DVD, TV, online, or via any other medium. Ever.

1 comment:

  1. Great review. Loud, dumb, and idiotic, but also a bunch of fun if you love seeing Neeson run around, shooting, driving, and killing anybody that gets in his way. Can’t say I loved it, but I had a good time with it.