Monday 15 October 2012

Film Review: Taken 2

Liam Neeson adds to his repertoire of bad-ass action films by serving up another slice of gruff Irish grit in Taken 2

2008's Taken was something of a surprise hit for all involved; Neeson and co. expected the cheap Euro-thriller to head straight to DVD. Instead, the film raked in over $200 million worldwide, by which point a sequel would of been nigh on certainty.

Fast-forward to 2012 then and here we have it: Taken 2. Slightly confusing title and initial scepticism aside ("what?! how can she be taken AGAIN?"), Taken 2 follows on in the same vein as it's predecessor, mixing together a variety of action set pieces and more tender family scenes. It's simple, brutal and honest, something of a guilty pleasure.

After the events of the first film, screenwriters Luc Beeson and Robert Kamen have worked with the premise of dealing with consequences for ex-CIA operative Brian Mills' (Neeson) second-outing. Making Mills witness first-hand why killing a group of Albanian sex-traffickers doesn't go without repercussions is a clever enough plot-device to navigate the often difficulty of getting a sequel right.

What Taken 2 gets right is it's simplicity; it doesn't try to get overly clever. There is enough difference plot-wise to the first film to set it apart whilst enough similarity to remain familiar. Yes, someone is 'taken' in a dangerous, foreign country and yes, it is up to Brian to save the day, but it isn't simply treading water. Taken 2 strives to mix it up and show Mills when he is on the back foot and playing catch-up.

Moving the setting from the dodgy underbelly of Paris to the even dodgier underbelly of Istanbul, Taken 2 does slip up a little. Director Olivier Megaton seems hell bent on cramming in as many soundbites of prayer, and as many shots of mosques and crescent moons as possible, ramming home the point that anywhere other than good ol' apple-pie loving America is dangerous, seedy and rife with gun-toting Arabs. This might sound overly harsh, but when the main antagonist isn't even Arabic, it does seem as little out of place.

Add to this some questionable science involving hand-grenades and wind-direction, and it begins to feel like there were some clutching at straws going on during script-writing. The films' antagonists are also relatively forgettable, the same fate that befell their counterparts from the first film. Also, Taken 2's action sequences are ramped up on scale, detracting the gritty edge and plausibility the first film had in places.

Overall then Taken 2 isn't a bad film. It's simple, straightforward and sometimes silly. It's acted well by Neeson, Janssen and Grace and it also delivers enough action set pieces to keep the blood pumping. It might feel a little strained in places but on the whole, it's an enjoyable action-flick that gives Brian Mills' story a worthy second, and hopefully concluding, chapter. I mean, someone he knows can't possibly be taken a third time. Or could they?

I give Taken 2: 4/10

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Verdict: Doctor Who Series 7 Part 1

Doctorin' the TARDIS: Rory, The Doctor and Amy

Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill return for a third trip aboard the TARDIS as The Doctor, Amy Pond and Rory Williams in the five episodes kicking off Series 7, before the latter two bid farewell to the show. With the series once again split down into two (unequal) halves, I took time out after the first 5 episodes to weigh up on the show's 2012 return.


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