Alright, so here’s the first movie I’m gonna review that really….really just has no point in being a movie. But I went to the midnight showing anyway. Why? Because Liam Neeson is the freaking man. Seriously, he seemingly might have come out of nowhere as an action star and hardcore badass after the first (and only one we needed…) Taken came out four years ago, but this guy has been the man for many, MANY years. Starting all the way back with Rob Roy, a movie that, for some ungodly reason, no one I ever talk to has seen, but this guy has been awesome and wasting dudes in movies for a very long time. So it was no mistake that he finally became an action sensation overnight when the first Taken came out. Which, I often talk about my idea for the perfect movie, and I’m going to share it with you right now, because the first Taken has came the closest to my brilliant idea so far. My perfect movie would be about 75-80 minutes long. There would be hardly any dialogue, and certainly not much of a story, that junk just gets in the way of an epic action movie. At the beginning, our hero – a Liam Neeson, but likely more warhorse old action hero archetype like a Schwarzenegger or Willis, comes walking over the hill as the sun comes up. He descends upon a village in flames, with people running around yelling, bad dudes all over the place. This dude is loaded up for a one man war, with guns all over, a sword, couple grenades, etc. He walks into the village and starts shooting bad dudes all over, saving all the people, and this pretty much continues for about 70 minutes. He travels into cities fighting bad dudes, taking down planes, blowing up buildings, cars, etc. Uses whatever weapons he stumbles on, but rest assured we see a lot of rocket launchers – I feel like rocket launchers are greatly under-utilized in movies these days, and my movie would aim to fix such a troubling trend in the movies – and many things are destroyed. He saves the girl at the end (doesn’t really matter who she is, he just saves her) and at the end of this 75 minute action extraordinaire, he walks over that same hill he came over at the beginning with his arm around the rescued girl….and the sun’s goin’ down. Roll credits, best movie ever made. How the hell did I get off on THAT tagent? Oh yeah, cuz the first Taken was the closest movie yet to come to that mark. In the first Taken, we have Liam Neeson pretty much playing himself, which is to say an older gentleman who no one in their right mind should piss off, having his daughter kidnapped from him within the first ten minutes. For the next 80 minutes, he just fights dudes until he saves her. What a fantastic movie it was, for some reason women even loved it, which confused me. It made a billion dollars and won the Oscar for best movie ever made. So, if we lived in an era where people made ORIGINAL movies, we probably would have gotten a slew of action movies featuring Liam Neeson, much like the Jason Statham vehicles we see once, twice, sometimes three times a year now (those three were all from last year, actually). Liam Neeson is a great and nuanced actor, and while he still made excellent indie films that no one watched and should have, I figured we’d be seeing him in a lot of new action movies for him to fight dudes in.
Instead, they only tried once, and since that didn’t pan out as well as they expected, they said “welp, f*** it, let’s just have his family kidnapped again, seemed to work the first time, people like that stuff!” and thus, Taken 2 was born. Do I really need to describe the plot to you? The posters could just say “Damn you guys, kidnapped AGAIN?! Boy must your face be red!” But hey, I should probably stop making fun of the idea so much, because after all, they got my money. And I knew they would after I saw the first preview. Much, MUCH unlike the god awful and wretched Hangover 2 that REALLY didn’t need to happen, Taken 2 (mostly) works because of its cast. We got the Phoenix herself, Famke Janssen, looking quite lovely here, back as his ex wife, and this time things might be a brewin’ with them getting back together, since, you know, her husband turned out to be douche and basically, just not Liam Neeson. I mean who is after all. So this time the exposition takes a little longer in getting us to everyone getting kidnapped (about a half hour this time, as opposed to 4-5 minutes in the first one), but kidnapped they do get, except this time, its Liam and his wife, not his daughter. What a tweest, amiright?! See, the bad guys this time are all the dads, brothers, etc., of all the people Liam killed in the first one which was uh…which was a lot. I’ll admit I liked this idea of the movie, because myself, much like a man I greatly respect (except for his take on whether video games are art, but that’s neither here nor there…), Roger Ebert, I sometimes wonder what happens with the body count that an action hero leaves behind, who takes care of all of that, who gets the bill? And this movie explains it to us in the opening scenes, with the main bad guy being played by the always reliable Rade Serbedzija, best known (at least to me) for playing Boris the Bullet Dodger/Boris the Blade in Snatch, a cinema classic. Also the guy Batman hands his coat to in Batman Begins. Full circle, right? Here he is in Snatch in case you wanted your memory jogged-
So he’s our bad guy here, and of course he gets the job done as suitable menacing, particularly one of the first scenes where he confronts Neeson and essentially tells him that when they get his daughter, she’s pretty much gonna be used up by any greasy slimeball sex trafficker that can get his hands on her. Like I said, menacing, convincing. Oh yeah, and therein lies the real TWEEST of this movie – they get Liam and the Phoenix, but not his hot daughter. This time, she gets to become his plucky sidekick. And you know what? It works. If you buy into the whole ridiculous premise of this second movie that didn’t need to happen, then you will probably buy her as her father’s sort of rescuer. If you are like me, you will buy her as his rescuer because she does most of it with GRENADES. I won’t spoil this part of it, but I will say that it’s very slick and unlike the first one that mostly just displayed Neeson’s ability to kill a whole BUNCH of dudes efficiently, and instead shows us some of the other “particular set of skills” he has from being in his line of work. It’s all pretty well done. Maggie Grace, also beautiful, is back again as his daughter and like I said, she actually does a convincing job of being tough like her father and essentially saving the day at first. Even though she’s failed her driver’s test twice, she and her Dad are involved in a pretty epic car chase where she does just a dandy job of keeping them alive while smashing into any number of police vehicles. But hey, we buy it, cuz she’s Liam Neeson’s daughter, dangit.
Do I really need to explain the rest of the plot? I don’t. I’m quoting the great Mr. Ebert here, but hey, why not quote the best, when I say that if you buy what the director is selling, then you will have a good time. I did. Did we need this movie? Of course not. But it’s just a fine popcorn flick to take your date to, you’ll walk out with a smile on your face, no harm done. Just like we need the masterpieces like Lost in Translation, Once, Seven Samurai, Chinatown, etc., we need movies like this too, it’s part of the reason we go to the movies in the first place, it’s just good ol’ fashioned escapism. Taken 2 is that at its best, and you could do much worse for your $6-10 at the theater. I will tell you this however, just like I told my friend as we walked out of the theater – and with this, I am done with the Taken franchise. If the inevitable Taken 3 comes out (and judging by the crowd at the midnight showing, I’d damn near count on it), I’ll be passing. Two is enough, but hey, damn if it wasn’t a pretty fun two.