Taken 2 is perfect. It is a perfect example of why unnecessary sequels fail. Taken was a flawlessly executed thriller, with exactly the ending we want: good guy wins, bad guys lose, and everyone who deserves to live happily ever after does. To keep the story going from there could only worsen it, but movies are a business, and having artistic integrity counts for nothing compared to making money. The sad fact is sequels to good movies are far more profitable, at least in the short term, than good new movies.
Thus, Hollywood gives us Taken 2, leaving soon from a theater near you (I hope). Because this movie isn’t just unnecessary; where the first movie was the ideal thriller, this sequel is the epitome of every bad thriller cliché. If I were a wishful thinker, and I am, I’d say the production team consciously sabotaged a movie they wished they didn’t have to make. Even if this isn’t true, it might as well be; the movie seems to actively fight against any modicum of quality.
This is clear within the first five seconds of the film. Within those seconds, we see three separate shots, all of which show us nothing of interest — not that we can easily tell at that speed. We then see the credits, which resemble nothing so much as the text in an overzealous middle-schooler’s PowerPoint; the letters sparkle and flash so much to the sound of such high-pitched beeping, by the time we get our focus back it’s too late to read the actual words.
Also, of course, this is a cheap thriller, so the soundtrack is composed of mind-numbing bass and more of that infernal beeping ad nauseum. Really, these few seconds tell us everything we need to know about the film. Taken 2 is, in a word, overproduced.
When we do finally learn the plot, it seems to show some promise. Our villain is a logical choice: the father of a man killed in the previous movie, out for revenge.
However, what could have been a moving, intriguing character, whom we might even sympathize with — thus bringing meaningful and difficult questions into our heads—is instead reduced to a caricature. When he does finally explain his motives, they are trite and shallow. He is, he says, morally superior to our hero, because our hero killed his son. Liam Neeson, who again plays said hero, says exactly what we’re thinking: first of all, the son in question was killed because he kidnapped Neeson’s daughter and had her sold into sex slavery, and second, how are the murders the villain plans to carry out morally superior to any other murders?
The movie, which is intelligent enough to present these valid questions, answers them with a literal slap to the face: the villain hits Neeson, and basically tells him, “because I’m right and you’re wrong,” and leaves. I lost any hope for the movie at this point. If its attitude towards intelligence is that it’s despicable, to the point of taunting audience members who desire coherent character motivations, it’s lost me. The original Taken was great solely because of its intelligence; remove that, and all that’s left are special effects — and as I’ve said, those are amateurish at best.
So, is there anyone who could enjoy this movie? Well, actually, I did. I laughed my ass off. This movie is so completely bad — so poorly executed, down to the smallest flubbed detail — that I was able to watch and enjoy it as a parody.
Certainly the film never once takes itself seriously. The last line of the film, the final remark after an hour and a half of supposedly traumatic violence, is our protagonist’s daughter jokingly asking her father not to shoot her boyfriend. If that line isn’t satirical, then the level of apathy its writer shows towards human life is utterly despicable. In fact, that’s the best summary I can give of this movie: it’s either satire or it’s despicable.
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