During an interview, Liam Neeson said that the success of the original “Taken” surprised him. He assumed it would go straight to video; he just wanted to spend three months in Paris (with somebody else paying for it), and he liked the idea of someone still thinking of him as able to do an action role. Well, that explains his motivation for his own involvement, and we’re glad he’s not taking this too seriously. Because we’re not, either. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it for what it is.
Neeson is now 60 years old, which makes him as unlikely an action hero as, say, Stallone or Schwarzenegger or Willis or any of those other former bad boys who are now old enough to sit around and joke about how they’re too old for this. Neeson, though, is still willing to go out there and play the role of a former spy operative who swaggers into Istanbul and manages to slug and shoot his way through an entire gang of bad guys in order to save his lovely wife from their evil clutches.
Well, we can certainly understand his interest in Famke Janssen, who’s a former model and 12 years younger, even if she is his ex, though they’re still connected through their grown daughter, played by Maggie Grace. Though she’s actually 27, she plays the part of a teenage girl who can’t seem to pass her driving test, and whom Daddy wants to overprotect, by either preventing her from dating, or, if she does somehow manage to meet someone, by making sure he is run through the criminal background check. Well, just because he’s an authoritarian Neanderthal as a dad doesn’t mean he isn’t still charming and affectionate when he wants to be. All this is supposed to add levity to this dark revenge drama, but it’s really more like adding silliness to cliche. It doesn’t help much.
The plot to this sequel actually builds on the original. In “Taken,” Neeson has to save his daughter from the clutches of an Albanian bad guy, who has a sordid history of kidnapping and torturing beautiful young women who are American tourists in Europe. Neeson is an ex-CIA agent who possesses a “certain set of skills” for the task. Well, perhaps part of the success of that film is that every normal guy who has a wife or a daughter to protect would, in the same circumstance, love to be able to do the same thing: go over there and crack some skulls together and be the Lone Ranger rescuer.
This time, Neeson and his ex-wife and daughter are all on vacation together (go figure), and the bad guy is the father of the one who kidnapped Neeson’s daughter last time. Yeah, the guy that Neeson summarily disposed of, along with a few hapless henchmen. Well, this time the evil dad tries to take both wife and daughter, but somehow daughter escapes and winds up helping good dad rescue her mom from evil dad and his new set of hapless henchmen.
Do we know how it’s going to turn out before it starts? Of course we do. But you go to this movie to enjoy the ride: the chase scenes and the fight sequences and the gun battles, and the inevitable final confrontation between the protagonists. It’s not tongue-in-cheek. It’s not self-effacing. It’s not trying to be sexy or humorous, and also back away from a possible sadistic/torture angle with the captured, helpless, tied-up beautiful woman. This is just a straight, perhaps straight-to-video action movie. And it delivers exactly what it promises.
Ronald P. Salfen is the minister at St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church in Irving, Texas.