Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Ghoul Versus Liam Neeson's Taken 2 (Part 1)

Come on Kim, move! Faster Kim faster! Go go go! Move! Come on, go! Move Kim! Keep going Kim! Move! Faster! Come on!”*

*Dialogue from Taken 2, NOT a pornographic movie

The first Taken came out in 2008 and was not expected to do much in terms of box office appeal. Instead it became a huge blockbuster smash, as it was first real action thriller in YEARS to have an actor who can actually act in it. While I was not a fan of it, I can appreciate why it was successful. But in this day and age of cinema, every single successful and unique property has to be exploited for maximum potential so Taken 2 was put into production no matter how ridiculous a sequel would be. After all, putting the same man in increasingly implausible situations never EVER gets silly, right Die Hard series?

The first movie was the major league debut of director Pierre Morel, a cinematographer who CERTAINLY knew his way around generically bland action movies with fare like the first two Transporter movie and War. He apparently too busy doing NOTHING when the sequel was green lit, so directing honours went to the awesomely named Oliver Megaton. Looking at his filmography, Megaton is also an expert in dull action movies, having directed the THIRD Transporter movie and Colombiana. He also served as the second unit director for your favourite film and mine, Hitman, so this man knows how to sterilize ANYTHING that might get exciting. Will Taken 2 be able to recapture the spirit of original, or will it end up like most action sequels and turn into a glorified remake lacking what made the original special? Let's see with A Ghoul Versus Taken 2!

Our film begins in Albania, as the bodies of the villains from the first movie are laid to rest. Marko's family, led by his father and brother, vow revenge on the man that has caused them so much pain and sorrow. Liam Neeson caused pain and sorrow to a gang who kidnapped young women and drugged them up to become prostitutes against their will. They're the bad guys, just in case you can't tell.

We go to Los Angeles, where loving father and violent sociopath Bryan Mills arrives at his ex-wife Lenore's house to give his daughter Kim a driving lesson for her upcoming exam. However, he learns Kim is not there because (and I'm quoting directly here) “She's at her boyfriend”. Damn, Kim must be dating John McClane or something, what other man would be brave enough to date a woman with the father she has?

It's very worth nothing Lenore is MUCH nicer this go around. The writers must have realized portraying her as complete bitch in the first film wasn't the best idea and hurt that whole “likeable star” thing that usually is important in these types of stories. It's either that, or when Lenore inevitably gets kidnapped in this movie they'd want to make it believable Bryan would actually want to rescue her. Bryan notices Lenore seems off, and not just because she's being nice. She reveals her and Most Interesting Man in the World have separated, and I smell reconciliation between our former couple!

Lenore makes Bryan promise not to hunt down Kim's boyfriend. Cut to our next scene, where Bryan has hunted down Kim's boyfriend. Wah wah wahhhh! Her boyfriend, Jamie, seems nice so nice I immediately suspect him of being in league with the Albanians. Bryan is quite rude to Jamie, refusing to shake his hand. Looks like the writers put all their skill into making Lenore more sympathetic and kind of forgot about Bryan. Bryan takes Kim driving, as we learn he is going to Istanbul for a job next week. We also learn he installed a GSP in Kim's phone, which is how he was able to find her at Jamie's house.

Kim is pretty upset at her father's behaviour, as none of it is helping her to feel normal after her ordeal in Paris. She gives a pretty earnest speech about how she understands where he's coming from but he has to trust her to figure this out on her own. Maggie Grace has really toned down her annoying bubbliness from the first film and this has made her character MUCH better. As they talk, she makes Bryan promise not to do a background check on Jamie. Cut to our next scene, Bryan calls his friend Sam to do a background check on Jamie. Wah wah wahhhh!

We take a quick trip to Paris, where we find our old friend Jean-Claude Pitrel entering his apartment. It's not his house from first film, so I am guessing wife left him for having friends that SHOOT HER WITH A GUN. Marko's brother (as far as I can tell the villains never get names, so I'm calling him Brother for rest of review. Marko's father will be Old Man) interrogates him over Bryan's whereabouts. Strangely, Pitrel will not give up Bryan. Did he forget Bryan SHOT HIS WIFE?

Back in Los Angeles, Bryan arrives at the mansion to find Lenore crying because Most Interesting Man has just canceled a trip she had planned to China without telling her. Bryan, instead of yelling at Lenore for letting his daughter go to China without telling him, invites them to come with him to Istanbul. Really?! Ultra Paranoid (although justified in this franchise) Bryan thinks Turkey is okay for his daughter to visit? It's not exactly the SAFEST place in the world, after all. I seem to recall Bryan getting worried about Kim going to Paris, let alone a country known for its current rash of violence. Lenore is grateful for invite, saying that's so sweet of him but she'll need to think about it. She has done complete 180 as a character, meaning she's DEFINITELY getting kidnapped.

Brother meets with a crooked Albanian government agent to learn Bryan will be in Istanbul. Did Pitrel not give up Bryan then? Or did he somehow know the Albanian government would know Bryan would be in Istanbul? I am very confused by the Paris scene now. Continuing theme from previous film, Brother doesn't ask for more information. But I guess Istanbul is such a small village, they'll have no problems finding Bryan, right?

In Istanbul, we see Bryan complete his assignment providing security for a member of Turkish royalty. Bryan calls Lenore, who it turns out didn't make the trip with him. He is surprised when Lenore and Kim enter the hotel he's staying at and before I can possibly question this, Lenore explains Sam was helping them track Bryan. Well played, Taken 2, well played. Lenore is tried from the trip and goes to bed while Bryan and Kim go out. Kim wants to go to dance club (which is playing TERRIBLE dance music) which Bryan shockingly agrees to, but sadly he does not get down like she does. Truly wasted opportunity there to make this film the greatest of all time, I REALLY wanted to see Liam Neeson get his twerk on.

The Albanians arrive in Istanbul and set up shop. They do that weird thing non-Americans always do in these movies where they say their few first sentences in their native tongue and then start speaking English. Psst Hollywood, MOST of us are capable of reading subtitles. Just... just throwing that out there. The next day, an Albanian spy is camped out in the lobby. He calls Old Man and reports Bryan is there, but then leaves after Bryan suspiciously looks at him. Kim fakes being tired so her parents can go out together and hopefully reignite their- no. Come on! Bryan, The Most Paranoid Man in the World, JUST saw an evil looking man glaring at him and he's going to leave his daughter alone?!

Bryan and Lenore go driving, talking about their past. Bryan sees they're being followed, telling Lenore to get out and giving her extremely complicated set of directions she really should have written down.

“Wait, after exiting the back of the store and turning right, taking the first street on the right, then left on the next street, then going straight to some steps, then going into a lane, which way was I supposed to go? Shit!”

His directions will get her back to their hotel and have her call hotel security, which I applaud as Bryan must have lost the Idiot Ball he's been carrying for most of this movie. Before she leaves, she asks what about him? He replies “it's the guys following us who are about to have a problem”. BOOM MOTHERFUCKER! Now we're getting somewhere! She kisses him full on the lips before getting out. Can't blame her for that one.

Bryan tries calling Kim but she's swimming so doesn't hear the phone ring. Why doesn't he just call the hotel staff to dial her up? He must have found his Idiot Ball so soon after misplacing it. He and the Albanians get in a minor chase that ends up with his car sandwiched between two of their vans. One of the men shoots at Bryan's face despite Old Man telling them to capture him alive. Bryan somehow manages to slip out of this trap in a scene that makes no sense. He must have used the Force to make everyone temporarily blind or something? The Albanians engage him in a foot chase, and I must ask why is Bryan running? He could easily kill all the men at once with both hands tied behind his back while blindfolded.

This culminates in a face off with two thugs that is VERY confusingly edited, making it look like everyone is teleporting around. The first movie had none of this and was very straightforward fighting, which I absolutely loved. But no, let's just cut fight scenes like the other 9 million ADHD-inspired ones. Bryan beats them up without breaking a sweat as two more thugs enter. Wow, that was VERY polite of them to patiently wait their turn like that! I would have rushed him all at once and overwhelmed him, but I am guessing that is why I'm not a leather jacketed thug!

This fight ends with Bryan holding a gun on one thug while the other points his gun at Bryan. The thug pointing his gun shoots his captive friend four times which is supposed to show us Bryan does not have the upper hand, but why didn't thug simply shoot Bryan in the legs? Bryan had his gun pointed down and there is no way he could have returned fire in time. Brother suddenly appears, holding Lenore at gunpoint and demanding Bryan drop his gun. Bryan, still holding his gun, takes out his phone and calls... Kim?! I gotta say, I hope I get taken by these thugs someday. They are the sweetest gentlemen in THE WORLD, waiting their turn in battle, letting their target use his phone to make complete phone calls, it really is wonderful to see manners still exist in the world.

Kim finally answers, Bryan telling her about the kidnappers and that he wants her to hide in his closet. We're just not bothering with the whole hotel security thing anymore then? Unfortunate. Bryan then drops his gun and the thugs beat him up, taking him and Lenore away. They throw them in van with hoods over their heads, Bryan doing this strange thing where he makes a note of every sound he hears outside and the time between sounds, as well as turns van takes.

I get he is trying to track route van is taking, but it's completely dependent upon two factors he couldn't possibly account for: speed of van and occurrence of sounds. Some are things like a dog barking and a man playing instrument, things that wouldn't be happening on regular basis. Somehow though, I'm guessing NONE of these issues will come up when this finally comes into play. The Albanians arrive at the safe house, where Old Man tells them to take Bryan and Lenore to “the shop”. Kim, who has definitely gotten more competent in this film, manages to evade the Albanians looking for her. Bryan, who ends up tied to a pole in basement somewhere, takes a mini-cell phone he had hidden in his sock and calls her. He wants her to go to US Embassy, but she wants to help. He finally agrees after seeing she won't budge on this and probably because Maggie Grace's contract she DO something in this movie.

He has her open his suitcase, which is full of weapons. There's a map in as well, and I honestly cannot explain what happens next. Using combination of a marker, a shoelace, and having Kim throw a grenade out the window (?!), he is able to pinpoint a rooftop for her to go to and await further instructions. He also has her take a gun and two more grenades along for the trip. This was BY FAR one of the most incomprehensible scene I've ever seen in a movie, and that includes Kari Wuhrer getting stabbed by a total stranger in the Prophecy: Forsaken.