Definition the sequel is an extension of an existing story building upon characters and situations that have been previously established. In many cases this works out well enough particularly in genres like horror, science fiction and fantasy were the rules of constructing a story are malleable and not overly tied to the constraints of reality. In the vast majority of cases the decision made on the part of the studio executives is a simple formula box office > budget. In the case of the 2008 action/adventure movie ‘Taken’ the budget of approximately $25 million was handily returned with suitable profit by a gross domestic box office of over $145 million. Any of us would greatly appreciate such a return on our retirement funds. Although that film didn’t accumulate much in the way of critical accolades if filed theater seats and sold discs. It also coined a memorable phrase uttered in the resonating voice of Liam Neeson as told to his daughter’s kidnappers apprising them of his black ops skill set and serious promise to find and kill them. That monologue entered the zeitgeist quickly ascending to popularly quoted lines keeping the original movie in the minds of fans. That combined with a respectable return on the studio’s investment meant one thing; a sequel was inevitable. This brings us back to the problem inherent with action sequels. Even under the most opportune circumstances most action movies are not known for their intricate plot lines or thematic threads. The flicks are usually summed up with; really bad guys do something heinous to piss off the wrong, highly trained guy. Death, explosions and extreme mayhem ensues, moral justice prevails, end credits roll. Take a look at 1985’s ‘Commando’ and compare to ‘Taken’. The major difference is Neeson can handle a lengthy threat while Schwarzenegger is better at grunted snappy retorts.
Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is a man, tall, lean and ostensibly like many you might pass during a typical day. He is a loving father devoted to his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), and still is an amiable; some might say affectionate relationship with his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen). Love was never the problem between them; his career got in the way. While many couples have been faced with such an obstacle in this case Mill’s occupation is most unusual. He is a former field operative for the Central Intelligence Agency who now engages with his colleagues in some freelance security jobs. On the golf course they appear to be a normal group of middle age men but they are among the most deadly and resourceful on the planet. Several years ago Kim was vacationing in Europe when she was abducted by a sex slavery ring. Mills promised to find the men responsible, retrieve his daughter and kill them; he made good on his word with extreme efficiency. With the passage of time things returned as much too normal as possible. Lenore is having problems with her current husband decides to surprise Bryan who has a quick assignment in Istanbul, Turkey. The job quickly done Mills is overjoyed by the visit of the two most important women in his life.
The prelude to the film depicted the funerals of a couple of the Albanian mobsters he killed while rescuing Kim. The father of one of the gangsters, Murad (Šerbedžija), vows a blood oath to avenge his son in front of his son’s grave.
The senior mob boss begins by capturing the corrupt policeman, Jean-Claude Pitrel (Olivier Rabourdin) torturing him to find out anything he might know about the man who killed his son. Bribing an official Mile’s location is soon disclosed. Kim, hoping to reunite her parents contrives to leave them alone during a planned lunch date. While in the car with Lenore Bryan’s heightened instincts detects a car following them. He calls Kim telling her to go immediately to the U.S. Embassy to inform them of what is unfolding. The first of many frantic chases ensues ending with Lenore and Bryan in custody. Mills comes too tired to a pole but manages to get to a cell phone concealed in his sock. He calls Kim telling her to go immediately to the U.S. Embassy to inform them of what is unfolding. Giving in to her pleas to help Mills directs Kim to his suitcase; a fully equipped portable arsenal. Instructing her to go to the roof and toss a grenade on a deserted roof Mills is able to calculate the distance his location was from the known position of the hotel.
Throughout the remainder of the film each member of the family is captured, brought to a dire position and through the use of the family trait of resourcefulness in the face of overwhelming mortal threat manages to survive and escape. Part of the strategy of most sequels with particular importance in one driven by action, it is crucial to amplify the degree of excitement and magnify the number of participants on both sides of line. The number of solider villains is as seemingly inexhaustible as the original movie but the concentration on the intent directed against Mills is accomplished by making it personal. The blood oath to avenge the death of his son, no matter how well deserved by the moral sensibilities of the audience, is over ridden by the old world nature of vendetta in the oldest sense of the term. Ultimately this leads to a choice for sanity offered and rejected to Murad by Mills opening up the way to achieve trilogy status. That film has already been given the green light.
As part of the mandatory escalation the women in Mills’s life get to take a proactive role in kicking some serious butt. Famke Janssen has had action requirements before in the ‘X Men’ franchise but mostly the out stretching her hands or holding her temples while her mutant powers did the work. Here she takes a lot of physical and psychological abuse but rises to the occasion to return the use of force better than she endured. Not to be out done Maggie Grace, accustomed to the understandably natural role of gorgeous young woman should that Kim Mills is definitely her father’s daughter. The explosive apple didn’t fall far from that tree. She tosses grenades better than many college baseball pitchers and poses a serious threat to anyone standing between her and the safety of her family. Like a blonde Kari Byron, Kim retains her feminine appeal while shooting and exploding everything in sight. She is also the source of the requisite running gag, prior to the trip Kim was worried about passing her driving test, especially the dreaded parallel parking section. During the course of the film Kim has to drive through the streets of Istanbul avoiding cars chasing behind constantly shooting at her and plowing through any object, stationary or not, that had the misfortune to get in her way. That experience definitely made the State Motor Vehicle tester far less daunting. This film falls into the popcorn flick category ideal for a fun afternoon.