Often when I criticize a movie like Skyfall for half-baked plots and shallow characterization, what I hear in response is, “Whatever, it’s just a mindless action movie.” But I don’t believe that’s true. A movie decides what it’s going to be – Daniel Craig’s Bond was a deviation from previous movies in that it wanted to be thoughtful and have more depth than its predecessors. It aspired to something that it didn’t quite achieve.
Taken 2, however, has no pretensions. It knows exactly what it is – car chases, explosions, and gravelly-voiced Liam Neeson. Everything else is just the glue that gets us from one fight scene to the next.
Yes, the family dynamic is ridiculous. Famke Janssen’s new husband has conveniently shifted from all-around nice guy in the first movie to an unseen heartless monster who “Canceled our trip to China! How could he DO this to us?!?” Which sets Famke up for some friendly comfort (and a spontaneous international getaway!) with her ex, Liam Neeson. Does it make sense? Not a lick.
And there is definitely some awkward acting, as forced by an awkward script. Janssen and Maggie Grace giggle and smile brightly and flip their hair and gush “Oh, you’re the BEST!” like they’re flirting with Liam Neeson to get a free drink at the bar.
But you know what? I DON’T CARE. Because all we need to know is that Liam Neeson cares about these people and some evil Albanians are threatening them and he will MAKE. THEM. PAY. They throw in a few lines about violence begetting violence and ending the cycle and blah blah don’t care back to shooting.
The action scenes are so fantastically well-executed I was blown away. The shaky cam heightened the tension. The frantic violins in the background made my heart race.
Maggie Grace was more mature and infinitely less annoying in this movie than in the first, which is really all I ask. I didn’t care that she was setting off grenades in a major metropolitan area apparently without attracting any attention, or that she suddenly went from incompetent behind the wheel to master stick-shifter and stunt driver. I was fully invested in this movie, and because it delivered on its core promise – thrills and excitement – nothing else matters.