Albanian baddies endure round two
As far as speeches go they don’t get much more memorable than the one Liam Neeson delivered near the start of the 2008 action thriller Taken.
On the phone to the Albanian sex-trafficker who has just kidnapped his teenage daughter, Neeson’s ex-CIA character Bryan Mills methodically explains: ‘‘I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have is a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.’’
It was a speech that summed up both the film’s plot and its huge success. It explained the film’s popularity because while having a child kidnapped is at the top of every father’s list of their greatest fears, most blokes like to imagine that, faced with the unthinkable, they’d be able to sound as cool and menacing as Liam Neeson.
Quite simply, Taken tapped into men’s instincts to not only protect their families but to hurt those who threaten them.
Made for the comparatively modest sum of $30 million, the Luc Besson-produced European revenge-fest made $277 million at the box office.
Of course you can’t make those sort of returns without someone screaming for a sequel and so, four years later, we have Taken 2.
The film opens with the families of the first movie’s slain Albanians burying their dead and dedicating themselves to finding Bryan and making him pay.
Luckily for them Bryan scores a bodyguard gig in nearby Turkey and upon completion of his contract is joined for a holiday in Istanbul by his ex-wife, Lenore, played by Famke Janssen, and their daughter, Kim, played by Maggie Grace.
The sightseeing has hardly even begun when Bryan and Lenore find themselves being pursued by angry Albanians.
The pair get kidnapped but not before Bryan can call Kim and tell her to hide from the goons heading her way.
Taken 2 gets several things right; the first being the location. Istanbul looks awesome and director Olivier Megaton (love that name!) makes good use of the city.
The second is it sticks to its knitting which means giving Neeson lots of Albanians to kill. And while he cuts his way through the extras in a very workman-like fashion, there is still something appealing about Neeson, now 60, being an action hero.
The film also scores points for hiring the always interesting Rade Serbedzija to play the boss of the baddies and the music is pretty cool.
However, sexy Maggie Grace is once again miscast as Bryan’s just-out-of-her-teens daughter. Grace, who first turned heads in television’s Lost, is 29 and apparently an intelligent woman, so watching her pretend to be a goofy kid is weird.
The other problem I had with Taken 2 is its nastiness. You get the feeling its makers believe all Albanians are rabid evil dogs that must be put down.
It’s also surprisingly vicious for a film without an R in its classification.
Bottom line: Taken with a bigger budget.