No matter how stressful driving lessons with your parents might have been, they can't even compare to the ones Kim Mills (Maggie Grace) must endure in "Taken 2." If you saw "Taken," then you already know how anal retentive and protective her ex-spy father Bryan (Liam Neeson) is. Heck, after she was kidnapped by Albanian sex traffickers in that film, he pieced together clues to swiftly rescue her, leaving an enormous pile of dead bodies in his wake. That being the case, he's definitely not the kind of overbearing guy you'd want giving you automotive instruction.
Why are driving lessons even a topic of conversation with an action flick like "Taken 2?" Well, because unfortunately, Kim’s inability to pass a driver's test is actually a relevant plot point. With angry Albanians in hot pursuit and her father shooting at them, Kim must overcome her vehicular struggles by speeding through narrow streets, dodging baddies at every turn. Pretty ridiculous right? Sadly it gets worse.
While vacationing with his family in Istanbul, Bryan and his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) are kidnapped by revenge-seeking relatives of the Albanians Bryan killed in the first “Taken.” Even though he’s the one in enemy captivity, Bryan enlists his daughter’s help to escape by providing her instructions via phone. The ensuing rescue attempt is not only incredibly comical, but it becomes increasingly absurd as the movie continues.
After the intensity and awesomeness of “Taken,” you were probably anxious to see Bryan on-screen for another round of ass-kicking. Although the concept of Albanian relatives coming after him for payback is a bit cartoonish, it’s easy to shrug off since you get the feeling the filmmakers will deliver enough awesome action to make up for it.
Director Olivier Megaton serves up some satisfying gunplay and bare knuckle brawling between Bryan and his enemies; however it’s hard to maintain your enthusiasm and suspension of disbelief with the daughter character in a more prominent role. Aside from the hilarity of the 30-year-old Grace playing someone half her real age, the film’s writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen have her do some pretty ludicrous things. The worst is when Bryan gives her directions on how to find him. He literally has her lobbing grenades indiscriminately all over the crowded city, so he can hear the explosions and pinpoint their distance.
Other outlandish aspects of “Taken 2” include unnecessary measures to make the Irish born Neeson seem more All-American and efforts to create additional witty one-liners. Megaton, Besson and Kamen go out of their way to show Bryan grilling steaks with his buddies talking about women and sports, as well as drying his own car at the carwash. Bryan’s quips about being like a dog with a bone when it comes to protecting his family, and being skilled at killing people are also forced.
As silly as this movie turns out to be though, the action sequences are entertaining and there’s a heartwarming family element to the story. In his own way, Bryan learns to accept that his daughter is growing up, and that he has to let go a bit, so she can start taking care of herself. The funniest thing about “Taken 2” however, is that seasoned French filmmaker Luc Besson’s writing on a bad day is still more stimulating than mediocre thrillers like this year’s spy flick “The Bourne Legacy.”
My Grade: B-