Taken 2 is not an exact retread of the original film, but gets pretty darn close. The plot is ludicrous, entirely unbelievable, with enough holes to drive a truck through. Thematically it's a collection of every generic action movie paradigm. There are the damsels in distress, the invincible hero, car chases, roof chases, absurd escapes, and of course, the greasy, bearded thugs. Laughable as most of this film is, it's not entirely unwatchable because Liam Neeson is the star. A great actor can lift the weight of the shoddiest film and there's some heavy lifting done by Neeson here.
The story picks up a short time after the events of the first film with a bunch of angry Albanians looking for revenge. They're not happy that Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) killed scores of their sex trafficking brethren while rescuing his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). Led by a caricature villain, Murad (Rade Serbedsija), the Albanians figure out - in about ninety seconds of screen time - that Mills will be at a hotel in Istanbul. Lucky for them, Mill's ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen), has broken up with her husband and takes Kim for a surprise trip to be with her father. They successfully kidnap the parents, but little Kim is her father's daughter and proves to be quite the clever girl in tracking them down.
Quite a few scenes in Taken 2 had me laughing out loud. I'm fairly positive these weren't written for humor, but the irony is it actually enhances the entertainment factor of the film. There's this cheesy subplot where Kim has failed her driver's license exam three times. She can't parallel park a Toyota Camry in an LA mall, but under duress can drive a stolen taxi like Jason Bourne through the winding back alleys of Istanbul? Laughable indeed, these scenes were meant to be thrilling but end up comical.
While Kim is a banner junior secret agent, her mom - Lenore, is essentially a moaning sack of potatoes the entire time. At some points she's injured and can't move, but revives miraculously to scream or cry on cue. She's shuttled around the entire film like a lost Fed Ex package. I wouldn't put Famke Janssen on my list of great actresses, but she's certainly experienced enough to have better dialogue and screen time than this. If you're going to have someone be a victim the entire time, then at least try to make it interesting and believable.
The plot is not to be taken, pun intended, seriously. Mills, who we all know is a bad ass killer, is somehow not searched when captured. He has this mini cell phone hidden in his sock that allows him to literally direct the action. So here's a guy that can kill your men with a pen, but isn't patted down enough to discover a phone hidden on his actual person? Are you kidding me? Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen's script is sloppy to the core to expect the audience to believe this key plot device.
Doug Lyman and Paul Greengrass directed the first three Jason Bourne films. It seems that every action film has copied them stylistically. Taken 2 must be made from a Bourne action manual. Insert rooftop chase here, obligatory tight shots and quick edits in car chases, hand to hand fighting, it all looks exactly the same. Imitation is the best form of flattery, but Taken 2 needed to exercise some creativity and mix it up somewhat. If I'd wanted to see Bourne I would have rented those films and stayed home.
Taken 2 is a dud. Sequels are invariably money machines meant to capitalize on the first film's success. Most don't come close to capturing the aura of the original. Taken 2 is a textbook example of this. It's marketing strategy versus imagination and good film making here. I can only imagine there's a Taken 3 on the horizon. I wonder if there are enough Albanian bad guys left for that film.