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Taken 2 (12A)
Odeon, Leicester Square
18th September 2012

★★☆☆☆

If Taken has the odd whiff of Emmental about it, Taken 2 is very much Stinking Bishop from start to finish. Liam Neeson plays an interesting cross between Christian Bale's gravelly voiced Batman, Tom Hardy's invincible Forrest Bondurant and Davina McCall in full blown Big Brother mode: "Bad guys, I'm coming to get you!"

Let's be clear, as an action film, this is simply terrible. Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen may have intended something more serious for their sequel when penning the script together, but Besson proves here that when the mighty fall, they do fall hard. With a string of successful writing credits behind him, being involved in a film like Taken 2 is surprising. Perhaps it lacked his masterful flair behind the camera, seen in The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec, The Fifth Element and, of course, Leon. But the silver lining is, if you approach Taken 2 as a comedy, it does become rather more watchable.

Ex CIA agent or not, it just doesn't seem credible that Bryan Mills (Neeson) would instruct his only child Kim (Maggie Grace) to lob a hand grenade out of a hotel window, run a little bit, then throw another one into the air, with blatant disregard for the human and/or financial cost to innocent civilians nearby. Rinse, lather, repeat. And whilst Kim was previously "taken" (hence the ingenious title of the last film), installing GPS on her smartphone and using this to track down her gormless loved-up new boyfriend does seem a trifle excessive. It is however vaguely amusing in a classic break-my-daughter's-heart-I'll-break-your-legs way.

There's very little more to say about the plot other than Bryan goes around killing everyone and getting away with it, yet is supposed to remain the goodie of the film. In classic movies like Star Wars, we understand that Luke kills the villains because he has to, for some greater reason, making a considered judgement each time and feeling compassion and regret. Here, Bryan just kills people. It's difficult to describe him as ruthless though, because Neeson's character just doesn't have that amount of emotion.

Set in Albania, America, France and Turkey, this round-the-world trip of destruction and bad acting does allow for some gorgeous shots of scenery, shown off by some smooth camerawork. And parts of the film are fun, if over-the-top and downright ridiculous. Faint praise if ever we gave any. One star is for the unintentional laughs, the other is for Neeson's lack of embarrassment in delivering his lines. Truly, he doesn't seem ashamed by his performance and that takes some confidence.

In this instalment of the Taken franchise, it's Bryan's ex-wife and mother-of-his-child Lenore (Famke Janssen) who bears the brunt of the bad guys' wrath. Given how insular Bryan is, we can only assume new character Jamie (Luke Grimes) is the only one left to be taken in what seems like an inevitable threequel. We're not looking forward to it. Neeson, Janssen, Besson, you are all better than this.

Taken 2 was released in the UK on 4th October 2012.

Nearest tube station: Leicester Square (Piccadilly, Northern)



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