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In Istanbul, retired CIA operative Bryan Mills and his wife are taken hostage by the father of a kidnapper Mills killed while rescuing his daughter.
For more about Taken 2 and the Taken 2 Blu-ray release, see Taken 2 Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on January 16, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Rade Šerbedžija, Leland Orser, Luenell Campbell
Director: Olivier Megaton
» See full cast & crew
Taken 2 Blu-ray Review
Should've been "Taken 2" a different director.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, January 16, 2013
Taken is a prime example of an action movie that absolutely did not need to be turned into a franchise. Sleek, smart, and expertly choreographed by director Pierre Morel, the film could've—and probably should've—stood alone. Unfortunately, that's not how the box office-obsessed movie industry hive mind works. Once Taken proved successful, a followup seemed inevitable. It's taken four years, but here it is, Taken 2, a film that's as generic and uninspired as its boring old numerically sequential title. I can at least say this—it's not actively bad. There are some serious shortcomings here in terms of action movie storytelling and editing—director Olivier Megaton lacks Morel's visual grace—but Taken 2 is watchable and even moderately entertaining in a few brief stretches.
The problem is that it feels so completely non-essential. Saddled with a rote, predictable plot, it leaves us with a withering indifference for the plight of the characters, and really doesn't bring anything new to the genre. Even the action sequences—which should be the film's main selling point—are humdrum, shot and cut together in a way that's adequate at best, headache-inducing at worst. In a way, the film might've been better if it had tried and failed spectacularly at being more ambitious; as it stands, it's simply uninteresting.
In an all-too-common move for sequels, the story hinges on revenge. Remember all those Albanian sex traffickers that Liam Neeson's ex-CIA agent Bryan Mills killed en route to rescue his daughter? Well, their families back in the old country are clamoring for eye-for-an-eye retribution. When the film opens, at a funeral for those summarily dispatched by the protective-dad's bullets and fists, grizzled patriarch Murad (a mostly stoic Rade Šerbedžija) stands over his son's open grave and swears—in English, for some reason—that he will not rest until Mills' blood "flows into this very ground." Murad seems non-plussed by the fact that his son, Marko—the first film's baddie—was a vicious kidnapper and seller of women, and who arguably deserved his literally heart stopping comeuppance. (Mills tied him to a chair and electrocuted him.) The tree isn't far from the fallen apple; Murad is a lunatic hell-bent on perpetuating the cycle of violence.
Meanwhile, back in Los Angeles, Mills—like all action movie heroes recuperating from their previous adventure—is trying to get his life back to normal. He casually comforts his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen), who's new husband has left her, and keeps a watchful fatherly eye on his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), who's nervous about passing her upcoming driving test. (Whaddaya wanna bet that Kim is forced to drive during a car chase at some point in the film?) Hoping to reconnect, Mills invites them both to Istanbul; he has a private security gig for a few days, but after that he's free to show them around the city. Of course, Murad and his cronies catch wind of this and plan to nab the three of them in one fell swoop. They're not entirely successful—Kim escapes by hiding in a closet—but they do snatch Mills and Lenore, tying them up in some dingy factory. (Where else?) Will the ex- lovers escape? Will they get back together? Will Mills end the tit-for-tat bloodshed once and for all? You already know the answers.
It's hard to quantify exactly what makes a good action movie, but good action is certainly a key component. Despite his ridiculous nom de film, director Olivier Megaton's running, gunning, and driving sequences are anything but explosive. Pedestrian is a better word for the generally functional but unimpressive action choreography, which is framed much too closely—and too rapidly cut between multiple camera angles—to really register. The car chases are turgid, the martial arts unspectacular, the gunplay routine—there's nothing here we haven't seen done far better elsewhere. Even the location feels commonplace now; running across Istanbul's Grand Bazaar Rooftop is beginning to seem like a visual cliche after The International and Skyfall. (Sure, Taken 2 came out before the latest Bond picture, but Skyfall makes better use of the locale.) Where the first Taken film is as crisp and energetic as, say, the Bourne movies, this new one is just going through the motions.
It's a shame, because Liam Neeson—as post-Taken movies like The Grey and The Unknown have made clear—makes a refreshingly atypical action star. He can do the physical stuff, and at 6'4" he's a hulking bruiser when he needs to be, but he also has that perpetual sadness in his eyes that instantly wins our empathy. We like him. We want him to succeed. And usually, his presence can make even the dumbest movie bearable. (Battleship, anyone?) But not even Neeson's noble countenance can save Taken 2's by-the-numbers story. He growls, he softens, he flies into a rage—it doesn't matter. We just don't care about Bryan Mills' desperate struggle to save his ex-wife and kid. Why? That's harder to pinpoint, but I think it has to do with the nagging realization that the family drama, the potential re-kindling of a long-gone flame, the father/daughter bonding—none of it means much to Megaton and writer/producer Luc Besson, who use it merely as a means to an end, a way to get the characters into motion. The focus is on the action, and when the action isn't exciting, well, what does that leave you with?
Note: The disc includes the theatrical cut (1:32:07) and the unrated extended cut (1:38:18), which doesn't fix any of the film's problems but does include a few extra minutes of reincorporated footage. Nothing game-changing.
Taken 2 Blu-ray, Video Quality
Taken 2 may be a disappointment as an action movie, but it more than meets expectations on Blu-ray, where it features a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that's punchier than the film's Albanian villains. Shot on 35mm with an intentionally gritty-looking stock, the image seems faithfully reproduced here, with its grain structure intact and no signs of edge enhancement or digital noise reduction. (Grain does spike a bit in darker scenes, but never drastically.) Thick-grained films have a tendency to soften overall clarity, but Taken 2 is still quite sharp; just see the above screenshot of Rade Šerbedžija, where every facial detail is defined and even the leather texture of his jacket highly visible. The film's color grading is fairly typical for the genre—lots of orangish/creamy highlights, with a slight bluish cast in the shadows—but the picture is vivid and impactful. Black levels could probably stand to be a notch or two higher in the darkest scenes—where some detail seems crushed—but this is a totally subjective decision. Overall, this is a striking high definition presentation, and it's unmarred by any compression artifacts or encode glitches.
Taken 2 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
It's perfectly functional, but I do feel a little let down by Taken 2's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. Considering all of the punches thrown, shots fired, and cars crashed, the film's sound design is somewhat bland, weighted predominantly in the front channels. The rear speakers do get some action, of course—plinking bullets, flying debris, whizzing vehicles, marketplace ambience—but it's kept fairly quiet and unobtrusive. (Then again, this could be considered a plus, depending on your tastes.) What irked me in particular is that composer Nathaniel Méchaly's electronically augmented score—while sounding great in its own right, if derivative of the Bourne music—is pushed so heavily to the forefront of the mix that it overshadows most of the other sound. I also think there's perhaps a bit too much bass in the dialogue—especially Liam Neeson's throaty, leonine voice—although conversations are always easy to understand. The disc includes optional English SDH, Spanish, and Mandarin subtitles, Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs in Spanish and French for both cuts of the film, and—exclusive to the theatrical cut—a descriptive audio mix and a Dolby Digital 5.1 Mandarin dub.
Taken 2 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Taken 2 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
An unnecessary sequel if there ever was one, Taken 2 loses the energy and action movie impact of its predecessor under the style-less direction of Transporter 3's Olivier Megaton, whose films so far have been as over-trumped-up as his pseudonym. The film moves at a brisk enough pace that it's never boring, but there's nothing exceptional about the kidnapped-again story or the ho-hum chase and fight sequences. When asked about doing a third Taken movie on The Daily Show last October, Liam Neeson shook his head, make the "cut it" motion across his throat with his hand, and gave Jon Stewart a wary look. Even Taken 2's star realizes the film isn't as good as it should've been. 20th Century's Fox's Blu-ray release is solid—I particularly liked seeing the alternate cut of the ending—but this one is probably only worth a rental, especially for diehard Neeson fans, who will be too disappointed to watch the movie more than once.
Taken 2: Other Editions
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Taken 2 Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Blu-ray Sales, January 14-20: Taken 2 Escapes to Number One - January 23, 2013
For the week that ended on January 20th, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment had the top Blu-ray and overall package media sales with its release of Taken 2. This sequel to the 2008 action hit netted Fox a healthy profit when it premiered theatrically last ...
• This Week on Blu-ray: January 15-22 - January 12, 2013
For the week of January 15th, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment brings Taken 2 to Blu-ray. The action-thriller slightly twists the format established by its 2008 predecessor; this time around, it is Liam Neeson's former CIA operative who finds himself kidnapped ...
• Taken 2 Detailed - November 30, 2012
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has officially announced and detailed its upcoming Blu-ray release of Olivier Megaton's (Colombiana, Transporter 3) Taken 2 (2012), starring Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, and Rade Serbedzija. The release will street ...
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