Taken 2

Released on October 5, 2012 0 comments

We’re happy to report that there’s more than enough action fare on the Fall docket to keep us busy, starting with the return of Liam Neeson in the Taken franchise.

A few years back, Neeson made a conscious decision to take his career in another direction. Previously, he’d tried to sell himself as the sappy and sympathetic Irishman, unlucky in love and usually playing second fiddle under someone else’s Star Power. His few headlining turns, which included “Michael Collins,” and “Rob Roy,” were slower than sludge and boring to boot.

All that changed when he re-branded as an action star. Neeson on screen is a hulking guy, likely owing to his salad days as boxer. As with most pugilists, he strikes an imposing posture when on camera. Into the physical stew he melds a worldly sullenness. The result is a more mature and emotionally reliable bruiser. It’s also not hard to imagine that after years of misfires and lousy casting, he’d grown weary of the inherent silliness of the Hollywood A-List monkey dance. Losing his wife to a freak skiing accident only seemed to solidify his resolve, likely pushing him to accept who he was while settling into a third act that came more organically. This new Neeson has not, as he was forced to do in the past, shied away from roles that embraced his natural physicality, which is requirement number one for any aspiring action star.

The original “Taken,” was tethered to his single-minded need to rescue his kidnapped daughter, who’d been snatched at the Paris Airport just after arriving for a summer holiday with a high school friend. Neeson’s father had been troubled by the idea of her travelling without adults, and was left with a healthy supply of guilt. Being an ex CIA/NSA hard-type, he is the perfect the choice to run through the Parisian slums wreaking havoc on anyone who gets in his way. When he finally catches up with the cadre, they’re just about to turn his daughter over to white slave-traders. Like any competent thriller, he snuffs the baddies in satisfying fashion and whisks the teenager home to a tearful reunion with his ex-wife and husband number 2.

Though the plot wasn’t anything original, the execution was excellent, the narrative relentlessly taunt, and the action bone-crunchingly believable. The fact that the villains were so repellant didn’t hurt either.

“Taken 2,” hopes to re-capture that initial magic. This time, Neeson’s in Istanbul, on a family holiday with the ex-wife and daughter. Apparently, the events from the first installment have brought the former husband and wife closer together. Those same events have also fostered a need for retaliation from the same crowd he tortured in the original, a group bent on getting what they wanted in the first place. This time, they snatch his ex-wife, while also making another attempt on the daughter.

Far-fetched? Absolutely. Though we are discussing an action/thriller, not a remake of “Ghandi.”

Neeson looks to be at his head-banging best, but the more attractive pull is the expanded role of ex-wife Famke Janssen. She is a good/bad favorite, the tall, striking Dutch Export who studied Lit at Columbia. (Be still our hearts.) Janssen got her big break as a Bond Girl, but unlike that gaggle is the real thing – an actual beauty with actual brains. We’d watch her read a lineup-card and be thankful for the pleasure.

In other words, we’re there for “Taken 2,” an unapologetic two hours that skips half-written pretention in favor of characters we can get behind.

All that, and Famke too.