Theatrical reviews of Taken 2 have pointed out the sequel to Taken is bland and sometimes laughable, mainly due to following the exact format of the first film. Watching the flick for the first time on Blu-ray, it seems Olivier Megaton’s vision of Taken 2 is not a bland copy of its predecessor, but rather a movie that tries to borrow from its predecessor, but doesn’t quite know how to pull out the best spots and ideas while covering new ground.
Liam Neeson returns as the overbearing father and retired intelligence agent, Bryan Mills. Set just a short time after the events in Taken, the father of one of the bad men killed in the original movie is now overcome by anger and feelings of revenge. Murad (Rade Šerbedžija) is determined to kill Mills, as well as Mills’ ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) and daughter Kim (Maggie Grace).
In order to set up a hostage situation similar to the first movie, screenwriters Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen get into a convoluted and drawn-out narrative concerning Lenore, who was married in Taken but needs a convenient reason to leave the country with her ex. Over wine, the two commiserate about Lenore’s recent separation and Mills swoops in, determined to show Lenore that his spirited spy days are over and that he’s truly a good man. Somehow, the script manages to cobble the makeshift family together in order to visit Turkey for a vacation, where the hostage events in Taken 2 unfold.
Taken 2 would never have worked without Bryan Mills kicking ass and generally showing a brutish will to survive and overcome odds, but it’s biggest mistake is the continuation of the story from the earlier film. The story relies on flashbacks to remind viewers of what occurred in the past and it also chooses the wrong ideas from Taken to copy. Do we really need to see Kim in the fold of terrorists for a second time? Do we need the same vein of terrorists to be involved in this plotline? I’m not sure what else would have worked, but this storyline doesn’t.
Regardless, there are plenty of scenes that are engaging on their own merit. Neeson’s fights against dudes of all sizes are painful, occasionally flashy, and very fitting for the franchise. Additionally, a team-up between Kim and Mills creates an interesting dynamic, as well as a few smart moments where Kim behaves as a capable apprentice rather than as a helpless individual. She has more moxy than she had previously, and it works for her, especially in a scene where she and her father use a grenade-throwing device to help determine her parent’s location. Moments like these should invest the audience, but with a lot of sloppy writing surrounding these moments, it’s difficult to ever fully engage with the film.
With more ludicrous moments than captivating scenes, Taken 2 is the sort of movie viewers might put on in the background while accomplishing other tasks. For a film that in theory had great potential to be entertaining, it’s a pretty hard pill to swallow to proclaim that in practice a good chunk of the film doesn’t work. Taken 2 is definitely not the follow-up Bryan Mills fans envisioned after the first movie, but people who love the character may still want to check the film out.
There’s an unrated option as well as the theatrical version of the film available with the set. The unrated option doesn't add a ton of extra footage to the flick, but at least fans also get deleted scenes. There is plenty of deleted fodder on the disc, but it’s distracting that the scenes are in fairly raw form, with the information from the dailies still on the top and the bottom of the screen.
An alternate ending with a short introduction is also available, which offers viewers some of the final footage, but a new angle and several big changes which leads to more of a revenge-oriented closing sequence from Mills’ end. I’m surprised this ending wasn’t used in the unrated cut, which would have created a cut that was far different from the theatrical cut, but if you are interested in watching it, this segment is lengthy and offers a totally new possibility for the film's ending.
“Sam’s Tools of the Trade” is a weird sort-of interactive segment that allows you to take a look at some cool spy tools. Mills has a suitcase kit within the film and all of the weapons are looked into in the segment. If you are really into information about weaponry, you can give it a watch, but otherwise this extra is tedious. There’s also a Q&A with Neeson where he discusses how the trick is to “not make some sloppy sequel.” That might be humorous, but his love for the physical stuff is very serious, and since some of the action sequences work, it’s worth a watch.
Weirdly, the disc isn’t put together with easy accessibility in mind. Some extras are only available if you are in the menu for the unrated version and vice versa. Additionally, there are some BD Live features, but I had a hell of a time accessing them, having to restart the disc and then load the page, to get the Live stuff to open. With a DVD and a regular digital copy, as well as Ultraviolet capacity, there are plenty of options for watching the flick. Overall, it’s a decent set, but there’s nothing available that makes Taken 2 a really special Blu-ray.