The family that grenades together, stays together. Seriously Fox, you missed the tagline of the century with Taken 2.
Fox also missed the quality quotient too, a derivative sequel that sees the Mills clan traveling to Istanbul where – wouldn’t you know it? – the father of a goon from the first flick resides. This is not a forgetful father either.
As the film runs itself aground in the first half hour, Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is wandering, trying to find his daughter and connect with his ex-wife. It is a tonal disaster, with metaphorical winks at the camera, cheekier thanks to a comedic edge that tries to establish normalcy for these characters. Maybe in their world that clicks; to the audience it is weirdly out of place.
So, Istanbul it is for a vacation amongst beautiful locations and choppy Olivier Megaton direction. It does not take long for the criminal element to grab hold of a helpless female, even if Maggie Grace eludes capture. She is the one who tracks her father’s unknown location by flinging grenades at the general public and without anyone batting an eyelash at her. The ensuing explosions begin to pinpoint Neeson sonically (?), himself held in a dim interior as the audience awaits for him to kill someone.
Kill people he will too. Fox missed a subtitle here too – Taken 2: Liam Neeson shoots the hell out of people. The sequel is punctuated with two car chases of note, the most stable of the action variety. Up close with slap-happy martial arts, the jittery editing and “Why would you even shoot that?” camera work is offensive to the gritty sensibilities established by the uniqueness of the first outing. There, a style existed that celebrated violence to sell anger. Here, the back-end and composition work do everything to avoid showing a broken arm or landed punch. Mills is going through the motions… choppily, but going through the motions nonetheless.
Taken 2 feels like it is in a perpetual rush after spending 30-minutes to set itself in motion. It blazes to a finish without setting up much of a purpose, an anti-climatic fight in a bathhouse springing up because the lead villain has no chance against Mills. Murad (Rade Serbedzija) is not much of a film bad guy either, just a vengeful father who barely lays a hand on anybody. He comes across as more of a background element.
To its credit, Taken 2 is a rare action film that shows consequences. With direct narrative follow-up, we see the after effects of a rampage only modern Liam Neeson could pull off. Violence is never clean, but it is a shame Taken 2 does nothing with that angle. That is nothing more than an observation.
Istanbul is comprised of two colors: Teal and orange. You won’t find that information on Wikipedia, which is odd because that is all Taken 2 seems to show. It is almost like that choice of ugly, orangish flesh tones and putrid yellowish blues does not occur that often in real life. Odd then that some modern movies (read: most) are so obsessed with it.
But seriously, teal and orange is stupid. Say what you will for cold and warm colors and how they mix. People do not have blue beards or teeth. When someone smiles in Taken 2, it looks like they have been sucking down a blueberry Slurpee, and the villain completely misused “Touch of Grey” hair coloring because his beard came out teal.
Aside from stupid, putrid color schemes, Taken 2 has a bit of grit. A mild annoyance or two via chroma noise aside, Fox’s AVC encode is up to handling the extensive grain structure. Rarely is it found to be out of control, and split second shots within the action scenes are the only times it looks to be egregiously removed. Good luck finding those moments during general viewing. Keeping the grain means keeping the on again, off again facial detail, managed well in close while the grain roughs up the medium shots. Fidelity only stretches so far.
Amazing exteriors are the hallmark overall, and they become plentiful. Aerial shots of bridges, cities, towns, and temples are stunning in their definition. Sharpness does not reach this peak amongst dialogue or action scenes. Viewing buildings out into the horizon is possible with some shots here.
Taken 2 is a visual disc that is heavy on everything. Contrast is heavy, black levels are heavy (and sometimes crushing), color timing is heavy, and sharpness is heavy. It is an easy to disc to gawk at sans muddy saturation, not that post production choices are any fault of the home media in question.
Car chases will have plenty to offer fans of the aural capacity, with plenty of smashing windows, crunching mental, passing engines, and bass to sell impact. They remain hefty and accurate throughout the entirety of the sequences, very aggressive on high and low-ends. Flipping or exploding cars have a nice crunch to them too.
Taken 2’s DTS-HD mix is not doing much to amp up the gunfire of the sound mix, pushing it low without material in the surrounds. For the most part, you’ll hear an echo before any tracking impacts. Most of the material takes place in front of the camera however, so most of it makes sense to stay within the center or stereos.
A club scene and ominous drums are the outliers, single instances of audio work to note. A little dialogue distortion is noted about 24:36 in the unrated cut, very brief and minor. Taken 2’s audio design, like the film itself, is lacking some energy or pizazz overall.
Five deleted scenes also contain alternate takes as they run for seven minutes. An alternate ending spans 25-minutes with changes and edits abound. Black Ops Field Manual is an unrated feature only, a pop-up track following all of the gadgets and locales. Sam’s Tools of the Trade dive into the briefcase carried by Neeson, detailing each item inside. In Character is an FX short that chats with Neeson about the sequel.
Two cuts of the film, trailers, and BD-Live access are left.