Thursday, October 4, 2012

Another careless action movie

Taken 2 spreads incoherent action around a plot full of ludicrous improbabilities. And, yes, it probably will make a few buck.

Consider a Mills family outing. A picnic? No. A holiday celebration in which everyone gives thanks for his or her blessings? No, not that, either.

As seen in the new action movie Taken 2, a Mills family outing involves enough bullets to stock the invasion of several small countries.

It all begins innocently enough. Dad (Liam Neeson) invites his former wife (Framke Jansen) and his 19-year-old daughter (Maggie Grace) to join him in Istanbul for a restful getaway. This purported vacation quickly devolves into a wild adventure involving vengeful Albanian kidnappers, bruising car chases, ferocious gun play, exploding grenades, terrible torture and severe beatings.

And you thought the Mills family didn't know how to have a good time.

All of this mayhem transpires in a sequel to the 2008 hit in which Neeson portrayed Bryan Mills, an ex-CIA agent who rescued his daughter from brutal kidnappers who threatened to sell her into sex slavery.

Taken 2 reprises the first installment, adding a few variations on kidnapping twists. This time, Bryan and his former wife are kidnapped. After his daughter helps him escape, Bryan must return to save his former wife, who may be interested in re-establishing a relationship with him.

Neeson usually receives praise for bringing a sense of bulky gravitas to any film in which he chooses to act. He does that here, but you have to wonder when Neeson is going to apply his considerable talents to something more substantial than a blurry action film.

I say "blurry" because director Oliver Megaton -- like many before him -- seems to specialize in over-edited, incoherent action sequences that are supposed to make the pulse pound, but, at least for me, failed to gin up the requisite excitement.

Worse than that, the screenplay by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen revolves around a series of preposterous improbabilities.

So how is that different from dozens of other movies, you ask? Well, we may be willing to accept this kind of plotting in a Bond movie, but Taken 2 presents itself as a serious thriller, laying on as much faux urgency as possible. Given that, it becomes difficult not to giggle when a captured Bryan uses a mini-cell phone to give his daughter Kim complicated instructions on where to find him.

Rade Serbedzija shows up as the chief villain, an Albanian who wants to avenge the death of a son that Bryan killed in the last installment. Serbedzija is surrounded by as many swarthy looking men as possible, the movie's way of signaling danger.

At the picture's opening, Serbedzila's Murad stands over the graves of Albanians sent to their deaths by Mills, who we know is a finely honed killing machine.

"The dead cry out to us for justice," he says.

Maybe, but the living cry out for a movie that's more than a collection of action set pieces strung around a lamely conceived plot that raises two unequally weighted questions: Will all members of the Mills clan survive and will Kim ever pass the driver's test she failed back in Los Angeles before things went so terribly wrong?

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