When you stop and think about it, the Taken series has, in a bizarre twist, charted the same course as the Hangover franchise (bear with me now). The audacity of the first installment took audiences by surprise, reaping the benefits through word-of-mouth, and giving rise to an unplanned sequel. Part 2 enjoyed a hefty uptick in opening weekend returns, but at the cost of plummeting critical stocks (read our review, for case in point). Money talks in Hollywood, of course, so that means The Hangover Part III – and now, Taken 3 – is on the way.
These trilogy-finales will stray from the formula of their predecessors, according to the filmmaking talent behind them. However, the proposition of another Taken movie is more enticing to me than a third Hangover flick, for reasons that will be divulged after the jump.
Taken was intended as a standalone release from EuroCorp co-founder/filmmaker Luc Besson, as co-writer Robert Mark Kamen discussed in a recent interview with Hollywood.com. The unexpected popularity of ex-CIA man Bryan Mills (brought to life by Liam Neeson with his gruff, yet monotone, voice) led the duo to write what Kamen describes as “not really a sequel, it’s a continuation story.”
Mill’s actions from the previous film fuel the proceedings in Taken 2, as Albanian criminals – led by Rade Serbedzija, whose sex-trafficker son was kiled by Neeson – enact a revenge plot (Serbedzija calls it “justice”) against the Mills clan, who are gathered for some vacation time in Istanbul. The sequel has a welcome European flavor courtesy of Besson and director Olivier Megataon, but it also feels somewhat tired – even with inventive sequences (ex. grenades as a means for echo-location) and satirical (or are they just hackneyed?) scenes that riff on what many would consider the current epitome of hip American action cinema, Drive.
In a way, though, the ‘been there, done that’ feel of Taken 2 is appropriate given the place where Bryan Mills is at in his life. The character looks more worried while shining his car to prep for driving lessons with his daughter than he does while shooting people. During a confrontation with Serbedzija, Neeson even delivers a monologue about how tired he is of the cyclical violence he has contributed to (you can probably make out the political subtext with ease). The point is, by the end of the film, Mills’ interest lies with getting to an even better place with his maturing daughter (Maggie Grace) and soon-to-be-divorced ex-wife (Famke Janssen).
Kamen has made it known that “We’ve taken everyone we can take [so ‘Taken 3′ is] going to go in another direction.” Taken 2, as suggested before, continues to progress Mills’ relationship with his family, while evolving the allegory of the first film – i.e. Besson and Kamen’s examination of ‘American diplomacy,’ as illustrated through Mills’ take-no-prisoners approach to rescuing his kidnapped loved ones. Hence, things are in place for Part 3 to bring the main character’s personal arc to a more satisfying conclusion, while also allowing Mills to reckon with the dark side of his past once and for all (albeit, without someone close to him being ‘taken’).
Taken 2 is as logically ridiculous and visually kinetic as… well, every other project co-written by Besson and directed by Megaton (Transporter 3, Colombiana). Still, there is potential for a third and final installment to cap off the political themes and character threads developed throughout the first two films (more so than with the setup for Hangover Part III, as we bring this article full circle). The watchability factor of this Neeson franchise, coupled with the promise of closure, is enough to keep me interested in seeing what happens next in ‘The Taken Saga.’
Did Taken 2 turn you off this series? Or are you willing to give Taken 3 a shot? Let us know in the comments section.
Taken 2 is currently in theaters.