“Taken 2,” another good guy vs. way too many bad guys adventure, could be subtitled, “Bryan Mills Doing What He Does Best.”
When Bryan (Liam Neeson) is out in the field. gathering intelligence, thwarting illegal and covert operations, he is a precision machine, wasting little energy, acting swiftly and decisively. When it comes to his personal life, well, that is a different story.
Bryan, the creation of Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, is a retired CIA operative now doing freelance security work. The security jobs may seem satisfying, but they hardly tap into his vast capabilities when dealing with espionage and other messy entanglements with countries, enemies or otherwise.
Meanwhile, at home he is a wreck. His marriage to Lenore (Famke Janssen) failed, and she has remarried a successful businessman. Bryan’s daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) seems to be drifting away from him.
In the original “Taken” (2008), Kim decides, against Bryan’s wishes, to go to Paris with a friend, where she is kidnapped and doped up to be sold into prostitution. Bryan, with calculating and lethal efficiency, tracks down the helpless Kim and rescues her, leaving a deadly mess in his wake.
This leads us into “Taken 2,” which opens with several coffins containing the bodies of men Bryan killed in pursuit of Kim, being delivered to relatives back in Albania. There at the funeral, Murad Krasniqi (Rade Serbedzija), whose son Bryan interrogated then left to suffer a slow electrocution, vows justice.
Back in California, Bryan is again stumbling awkwardly in his role as father. Kim is having trouble passing her drivers test, so he is giving her lessons, and to Bryan’s dismay, Kim has a boyfriend. Meanwhile, Lenore’s marriage is falling apart. Bryan, who has a security gig pending in Istanbul, Turkey, invites Kim and Lenore to join him there in a few days when his job is wrapped up.
Murad has enormous intelligence resources at his disposal, and although Bryan did not seem to leave behind any living witnesses when he rescued Kim, he is fingered as the man who killed Murad’s son. And somehow, Murad gets word that Bryan is in Istanbul — supposedly by torturing Bryan’s former colleague Jean-Claude — who, given that Bryan shot his wife in “Taken,” might not be harboring a whole heck of a lot of allegiance to Bryan.
So, when Lenore and Kim show up in Istanbul to join Bryan, everything is in place for Murad and his thugs.
Once we get past the tender-funny moments of Bryan struggling with being a father to a young woman and being a supportive ex-husband for Lenore, the action picks up. Bryan and Lenore are seized, though not easily, and Kim is being tracked down.
This is where “Taken” movies excel, showing Bryan as he employs discipline and focus, setting aside his emotions and pain and continuing to calculate and grab whatever tools he can against horrible odds.
At least Kim is not reduced to a drugged out victim here, managing to elude her pursuers and serve as an ally for Bryan as he begins to turn the tables on his adversaries.
All the staples of the action movie are here, including a car chase down narrow streets with people diving out of the way, rooftop pursuits, massive gun battles — and even a few grenades tossed, but not for the usual reasons.
Neeson, though not a muscle-bound specimen, still has good moves for a 60-year-old guy, and really captures the essence of Bryan’s superior skills and stoicism. Grandstanding bad guys should take lessons from him. Unlike these guys who waste time, telling their vanquished foes their motives for killing; strutting around, milking their advantage, Bryan gets whatever information he needs then shuts his foe down — permanently.
“Taken 2” is a guilty pleasure all the way through, and yes, a possibility arises for a third movie in this series. Only one question is left unanswered: What became of Kim’s singing aspirations?