The highly anticipated Taken 2 smashed the UK box office in its opening weekend. Back in 2008, Taken, the unexpected action thriller hit, helped to redefine Liam Neeson as an action movie lead. The original Taken saw security officer, Bryan (Liam Neeson), hunt down and kill the Albanian sex-traffickers who kidnapped his daughter. Essentially a cat and mouse pursuit punctuated by countless unpredictable deaths, Taken 2 follows the same basic idea, but this time Bryan himself is taken.

Angered by Bryan’s killings, the Albanian gang headed up by Krasniqi (Rade Serbedzija), seek revenge on Bryan and his family. When Bryan takes his daughter (Maggie Grace) and ex-wife (Famke Janssen) to Istanbul, the Albanians decide it’s time to strike. Kidnapped along with his ex-wife, Bryan must guide his daughter to their location and make sure the Albanian’s never bother him again. Enter car chases, explosions and an onslaught of killings.

“This sequel is lacking the truly harrowing threat that underpinned the original”

The mass funeral for the Albanian victims of the original Taken is an instantly striking opener, putting Bryan’s endless stream of slick kills in context. But this sequel is lacking the truly harrowing threat that underpinned the original. While the threat of human trafficking loaded Bryan’s actions with suspense in the first Taken, the threats in Taken 2 seem empty and uncorroborated. For a film that is centered on threat and unpredictable violence, it is odd that this sequel’s rating comes down from 15 to 12A.

Maggie Grace raises her game as Bryan’s daughter, Kim. Although her frightened, anxious character verges on annoying, Grace manages to pull off the action sequences with nerve. The father-daughter relationship cements Taken 2, keeping the plot grounded in some sort of reality. Neeson’s Bryan is both protective and affectionate, with his fierce loyalty to his family ensuring his continued appeal. But unfortunately the script has been virtually stripped of Bryan’s sharp dialogue that made Taken so iconic.

Although this plot feels somewhat slower than the original, taking us to fewer locations, Taken 2 has some visually stunning settings. Albanian baddies pursue Kim along Istanbul’s gorgeous rooftops and she evades them in a frantic car chase through the city’s bustling streets. Much of this action has been done before, but that doesn’t make Taken 2 less entertaining or fraught with tension. Bryan’s survival and tracking knowledge continues to impress and the action is exciting if less original.

“For a film that is centered on threat and unpredictable violence, it is odd that this sequel’s rating comes down from 15 to 12A”

Taken 2 is backed by original music from Nathaniel Mechaly. But this quality soundtrack is interspersed with lazy song choices that make some of Taken 2‘s key scenes feel much too familiar. As Kim waits in the car while Bryan enters the gang’s base, her stop watch counts down to the tune of Chromatics’ Tick Of The Clock echoing Nicolas Winding Refn’s BAFTA nominated Drive. Another striking song from Drive – A Real Hero by College and Electric Youth – also pops up in Taken 2.

As for the gadgets, Taken 2 acts as a not so subtle, elaborate showcase for the iPhone which saves the necks of Bryan’s family on numerous occasions, often accompanied by an iPad. Taken 2 is desperate for something more imaginative.

The original Taken was an inventive, refreshing addition to the action genre. Taken 2 does not have this same magic, partly due to its position as a sequel but also to some obvious choices. The plot feels disjointed in places and the violence less creative but Taken 2 remains full of high impact entertainment. Neeson’s quality performance rescues this second installment from becoming a nonsensical action debacle. Taken 2 is more of the same, delivered with fewer surprises, less flair and imagination than its predecessor but succeeds as another 90 minutes of absolute entertainment.

VERDICT: ✭ ✭ ✭ ✩ ✩   3/5

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