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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Movies

Lead actor reprises role in disappointing sequel


A sequel arguably needs a better justification for being made than an original film — one might be inclined to wonder, through all 91 turgid minutes of the film why “Taken 2,” with Liam Neeson and Famke Janssen, was even green-lit by EuropaCorp, much less shot, edited and released.

The only possible answer is as prosaic as it is obvious — money, and money alone.

The film has more than its fair share of problems, but chief among them is that the audience is persistently bludgeoned with Apple products from start to finish.

It’s difficult to find out exactly how much Apple paid EuropaCorp for the privilege of essentially starring in this bloated, hackneyed affair, but one hopes it was a lot — enough to counterbalance the shellacking they’re going to take in the media for authoring this tripe.

Liam Neeson is back as Bryan Mills, the retired CIA dad with a “particular set of skills” who promises to “do what [he] does best,” all over Istanbul, as he seeks to save himself and his ex-wife and daughter from a revenge plot to capture and kill them.

Rade Serbedzija plays Murad Hoxha, the father of the primary antagonist of the last film, whom Neeson’s character strapped to a chair and electrocuted to death.

There is some hand-wringing about how Hoxha loves his son no matter what he did, notably selling girls into sex slavery, but the character is so devoid of depth that he might as easily have been portrayed by a life-size human cardboard cutout labeled “bad guy.”

Hoxha and Mills’s dialogue lack dynamism, but their flatness pales in comparison to the utterly phoned-in, barely-acted scenes between Neeson and Janssen as man and ex-wife.

The film would have audiences believe that their love was once “magical,” but all the magic viewers can witness is the magic camerawork hiding the scripts they both surely must be holding in their hands as they mechanically speak at one another about their past. To say there is no chemistry between the two would be a massive understatement.

However, Neeson really comes alive once he starts barking orders to his ex-wife and daughter in the wake of the kidnapping, and Mills is seen at his best.

Unfortunately, his best in the film is but a shadow of his generally tolerable work from the original.

His gruff commando vocalizations are cliched at best and they are passably delivered. The action that accompanies it, however, is anything but.

Olivier Megaton, attempting to pick up where the original film’s director Pierre Morel left off, has taken the frenetic, choppy style of “The Bourne Identity” to the level of reductio ad absurdum.

The fight sequences are a flurry of confusing cut together flashes that don’t at any point feel exciting, immediate or real.

But the Apple products are the real stars of the film.

At one point, the point of view shot the audience witnesses is several full seconds of daughter Kim staring at the timer on her iPhone.

They are truly “Taken 2’s” raison d’être and are featured prominently in virtually every scene.

If one must see this film, watch for the hyper-violent homage to “Midnight Express,” but otherwise give it a wide berth.

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