Living up to its title, 'Taken 2' sees two people, from what is probably the unluckiest family in the world, get kidnapped and tortured — the deadly super spy and overprotective father Bryan (Liam Neeson) and his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen, who spends most of her time whimpering instead of crushing her captors to death with her thighs). Their daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), who's not looking much like a teenager anymore but acts just as annoying, takes a break from the ensuing chaos of the family being chased through the narrow streets of Istanbul by hiding in the closet. But this is a momentary pause, as she soon steps up her game and suddenly matures into the hero while daddy guides her via cellphone.
As action-packed as the above sequence may be — and even somewhat edge-of-your-seat thrilling, I must admit — it's ultimately rather silly, pushing the audience's disbelief to the breaking point. This is the same character who only moments ago was 1) still learning to parallel park, 2) couldn't admit to her father that she was dating a boy, and 3) behaves a lot like a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl. That last bit, I'm sure, has more to do with Grace's bad acting than the character's presumed age. (How old is she supposed to be anyhow?) Perhaps, the filmmakers should have taken a cue from 'National Lampoon's European Vacation' and hired a different child actor to play the role of distressed daughter. It couldn't possibly be any dumber than what we actually get, but at least it would be funnier.
French auteur of fantastically wild actioners Luc Besson reunites with co-writer Robert Mark Kamen to pen this direct follow-up to 2009's surprise box-office smash. The script gives hints that the same characters are dealing with the emotional aftermath of the first movie. Namely, a make-out scene in which Kim isn't entirely comfortable with her boyfriend's (Luke Grimes) advances and another shortly thereafter with Bryan helping his daughter prepare for her driving exam. However, it's never addressed in any serious note, giving more attention, instead, to Lenore's marital troubles, so that it creates the inevitable romantic reunion with her ex-hubby. But after the experience of this retread in über-masculinity that essentially amounts to a chest-beating revenge drama, shouldn't it be clear this man comes with some major international baggage?
Nevertheless, Besson and crew use the overt plot device as the perfect opportunity for Bryan to be the caring father and husband when he invites Lenore and Kim to join him on assignment in Istanbul. Given the events of the previous film, why the two women would ever want to leave the country again is beyond me, but they do. And not surprisingly, since this is why we're here, the surviving family members of the kidnappers from the first 'Taken' are on the hunt for Bryan and his family. Led by the usually charismatic Rade Šerbedžija, it's never fully explained how this Albanian mafia family discovers the whereabouts of Bryan and why they happen to be in Turkey. They just coincidentally are, and the filmmakers really go out of their way to make Šerbedžija's character evil, a stock villain that's easy to identify and hate right from the get-go.
The only saving grace in 'Taken 2' is the direction of Olivier Megaton (yeah, he call himself Mega...ton, although he was born Fontana), who previously delivered the goods in another by-the-numbers actioner, 'Colombiana,' also written by Besson and Kamen. Granted, he borrows heavily from the stylized 'Bourne' series, with lots of handheld cameras and fast editing that pretty much blurs the action, but he keeps things well-paced. The movie really only picks up suspense and hurries to a big finale almost halfway into the narrative. And in a story that clocks in at just over 90-minutes, that feels like a long wait for what's essentially a dumb repeat of the first film.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment brings 'Taken 2' to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with an UltraViolet Digital Copy. The first is a Region A locked, BD50 disc that contains both the Unrated Extended Cut and the Theatrical Version while the second is a DVD-9/Digital Copy combo disc. They're housed inside a blue, eco-cutout keepcase on opposing panels with a shiny slipcover. After a series of skippable trailers, viewers select which version they want to watch and are taken to the corresponding main menu screen with full-motion clips and music. You can switch back to the other version under the "Extras" banner. The difference between them is about 6 minutes of extra action and mildly-gory violence.
'Taken 2' explodes onto Blu-ray with a fantastic-looking 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that nicely complements the stylized photography of Romain Lacourbas. Although leaning heavily on the teal & orange palette, the picture places more emphasis on the secondary hues — lots of ambers and yellows, beautifully capturing the sweltering climate of Istanbul. Primaries are thankfully not affected too much by the color design, rendered with boldness and energy, and skin tones appear healthy and appropriate to the environment. Contrast is spot-on, with rich clarity into the far distance. Black levels, on the other hand, could be a tad stronger and seem slightly faded in a couple scenes although delineation in the shadows remains perceptible throughout.
The 2.39:1 image frame also shows many of the unique features of the Turkish city with razor-sharp definition and resolution. A few soft spots are related to the cinematography, but for the most part, the transfer is highly-detailed with perfectly visible and distinct lines in the architecture. Mosques, rooftops and the narrow cobblestone roads are crystal-clear while the walls of buildings, even when the camera moves at high-speed, expose the smallest imperfections and cracks. Facial complexions have a life-like texture to them, and close-ups reveal every blemish, wrinkle and hair on the faces of actors. This is a terrific high-def presentation.
The movie continues the thrills with a tense and electrifying DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that absorbs and puts viewers right in the middle of the action — even if the movie is less than satisfying.
Rear activity comes alive right from the beginning with the music of Nathaniel Méchaly, filling the room with a sense of upcoming excitement. It's consistent and stable, generating an immersive soundfield that only lets up for character interactions. But even then, back speakers employ a variety of atmospherics, from the busy sounds of Istanbul to the local wildlife in the distance, and they come in with excellent discreteness and directionality. During action sequences, panning is seamless, as bullets whizz from the front to the rear with continuous motion, and the tiniest shards of glass and debris fly all around with great realism.
The front soundstage exhibits detailed clarity in the mid-range with excellent separation and definition in the design's loudest segments. You can hear the movement of the clothes in the hand-to-hand fight scenes, and the grinding of metal on metal during the car-chase is as sharp and clear as it comes. An authoritative low-end packs a serious, highly-responsive wallop to every punch and bullet while a couple moments nicely dig deep into the ultra-low frequencies. Through all this, vocals remain intelligible and well-prioritized, making an average action flick into a thrilling and highly-entertaining one.
Essentially a dumb repeat of its predecessor, 'Taken 2' features a similar plotline where the surviving family members of the first movie's kidnappers are out for revenge. Only significant difference is that Bryan and Lenore are the ones kidnapped and little Kim must come to their rescue. The Blu-ray arrives with an excellent, near-reference audio and video presentation. Bonus material is not extensive but makes for a decent watch after the film's end. The overall package will surely satisfy the few fans out there, but ultimately, 'Taken 2' is a rental at best.