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At least they didn't call it Twoken
on 19 February 2014
Films that don't need or can't realistically accommodate a sequel are hashed out all the time, and Taken is no exception. The film reinvented Liam Neeson as a late-in-life action hero (despite having a few successful action films earlier in his career) and was a surprise hit at the box office thanks to its neutered PG-13 rating. A harder cut surfaced on Blu-ray, and the famous monologue of Neeson threatening the kidnappers on the phone entered pop culture, giving the studio hope that a sequel would do big business. The gamble worked, and the sequel took more money than the first. Is it any good? I expected the worst, but I actually prefer this movie to the first.
Made four years later, but set unspecified years later, Bryan Mills and infantile daughter Kim are still getting over their disastrous trip to Paris (where you are guaranteed to to be kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery, so don't even think about it). Former-bitch former-wife Lenore is now back in love with Bryan and surprises him on his last day of a Istanbul assignment by showing up at the hotel. New trip, new disaster. Will the Mills family ever learn to stay at home in America where nothing ever bad ever happened to anyone?
The daddy of the evil kidnapper in the first movie has somehow managed to find Mills and has an army of lowlifes (all of them dressing in dirty 1980s clothes that seemed to have washed-up in a lost container on a Yugoslavian beach some time in 1991) willing to sacrifice their existence for the most arbitrary of reasons (untaxed pay and the boss' approval). Mills and wife are quickly kidnapped and it's up to Kim to rescue them and let him loose to kill, kill, kill the evil foreign men.
I found this film to be more exciting and the danger was ramped-up. It lacks the variety of locations of the first movie (almost every scene is set in a dark alley), and there are some ludicrous plot contrivances (Mills' CIA pals fixing everything with a phonecall or the fact that Jean-Claude still has the same job despite his massive corruption being exposed) but it moves fast enough to make it a non-issue. The action is hard-hitting and Neeson is still a force to be reckoned with as he effortlessly dominates the movie with his presence.
The Blu-ray looks great in 2.40:1 1080p. The movie was shot in a strange combination of Super35 and anamorphic Panavision with lots of high brightness and contrast. Not amazing photography, but it looks nice. The DTS HD-MA sound has some good punchy effects during the action scenes. A bunch of decent extras are included.