By Greg Vellante Eagle-Tribune Movie Reviewer
---- — In “Taken 2,” Liam Neeson returns as retired CIA operative Bryan Mills, who in “Taken” killed a lot of people in order to save his daughter from a sex trafficking ring. Now, he just needs to rescue her from the frisky boyfriend trying to get to second base.
On top of that, daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) also has her driving test coming up and, of course, dear ol’ Dad is on hand to help her execute the perfect parallel park. After a cheerfully dumb wave of half-serious shtick, Bryan, Kim, and mother Lenore (Famke Janssen) unite in Istanbul for a little family getaway.
To the unsuspecting viewer, “Taken 2” could easily be mistaken for a corny family comedy in its opening act. Knowledge of the first film isn’t even necessary, as the characters reference the events over stitched-together flashbacks multiple times. Liam Neeson, comfortably positioned in Dad mode, swaps the stunts in exchange for sentiment. But then, things get insane.
Mommy and Daddy get kidnapped, but Daddy has a small, secret phone hidden in his sock that he uses to call his daughter, forcefully instructing her to perform ridiculous tasks involving shoelaces, semi-circles, and tossing live grenades into public areas. Watching Liam Neeson demand the absolute ludicrous while Maggie Grace frantically struggles to comply is some of the funniest junk I’ve witnessed this year.
But then “Taken 2” becomes some of same, tired junk I’ve seen all year — embodying the lamest of the lame when it comes to staging action sequences and building suspense. The action genre, tired with stylistic wannabes (director Olivier Megaton being one of them) and bloated premises, is suffering due to lazily slapped together products like “Taken 2.”
And yet, as much as I protest the movie’s absolute and utter insipidness — a check-your-mind-at-the-door archetype if I ever did see one —there is no way I can deny its entertainment value. I was exhaustively engaged throughout this entire piece of trash via reasons of pure guilty pleasure.
Both intentionally and unintentionally, the film is a downright riot. It’s the kind of junk destined for late night cable, a perfect antidote for boredom and a poison to intelligence. It’s a stupid piece of genius, consciously aware of its irrationality and never taking itself too seriously— a wise move that allows the audience to simply succumb and embrace the implausibility of it all.
Oddly enough, this action movie suffers primarily from the action. It’s tame, tedious, and torn to shreds by the editorial decisions made to achieve a PG-13 rating—a clear, cowardly marketing move that distractingly drowns the film in bloodless sanitation.
During the climactic kill scene of the film, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what happened because the moment had been so obviously hacked to indistinguishable pieces. It’s as if any shot with blood disappeared into thin air.
And yet, while bloodless, the film still manages to maintain a pulse and a steady one at that. It’s a full-throttle rush of stupidity and absurd spectacle, doused in knee-slapping hilarity from start to finish. It’s a nosedive into a surefire, heaping pile of garbage 50 feet deep. But swim around long enough, and it’s not hard to find some gold amongst this trash—even if it is of the fool’s variety.
Taken 2 2 1/2 out of 4 Stars