I was in the mood for an action picture. I knew the reviews had not been kind, saying it was basically a remake of Taken, same plot line and everything. But I liked Taken, like Liam Neeson as an action hero So I figured how bad could it be?
Not bad at all, in my opinion. It’s all true there is the same basic story, but this time it’s his ex-wife and himself who are taken, and his daughter must help him get themselves free. She performs like a trooper, though she is terrified, probably reliving her ordeal of kidnapping, multiple rapes and brutality. He is incredibly on the ball, thinking fast in all situations, never hesitating, hard-nosed. You get in his way, you die. Simple as that. And in a way, what’s the problem with him having to deal with the same situation? This one grew out of the first, unlike all the Die Hard movies, where poor Bruce “just happens” to run up against a whole new set of villains in every one.
It’s all preposterous, as any action movie of this size is, but I had fun, and there is at least a leavening of humor. Before the action begins, in Istanbul, Liam is obsessively spying on his daughter back home in Los Angeles, tracking with GPS, running background checks on her new boyfriend. He can’t help himself, he’s compulsive. At the same time he’s trying to help her pass her driving test, which she’s failed twice. He’s totally on edge when she’s behind the wheel, just the sort of parent who makes you more nervous than you ever were. So what happens when they get to Istanbul? Why, she ends up in the driver’s seat and suddenly she’s Danica Patrick, smoking the tires, doing bootlegger turns, streaking down the narrow streets, hitting everything in sight but still going. “I can’t do it!” she screams. “Do it,” he says. And she does it, whimpering but getting the job done in a hail of bullets. At the end there is a trail of wrecked SUVs and cop cars and the traditional fruit stands a mile long and she can finally stop. I turned to Lee and said, “She’s in a world of hurt now. She doesn’t have a valid driver’s license!”
I have to give credit to the thinking he uses to tell his daughter how to find them. It all has to do with circles in a map, calculated by him while blindfolded by counting seconds and turns and listening to sounds. Then when they have stopped, a very ingenious thing. He’s talking to her on his hidden spy cell phone which the abductors haven’t found. He’s basically helpless, handcuffed to a pipe. But he has his daughter get out on the roofs and start setting off hand grenades. From the time they go off to the time he hears them is a certain number of seconds, which can be turned into a distance. Then you draw circles on a map, and soon two circles will intersect, in two places. He and the wife are at one of those places. Has to be. That’s pretty damn smart.
He escapes, but can’t take his badly injured wife. He’s got too much killing to do. And he loses her, then uses another method to find her, one I didn’t believe in so easily. But it could work, I guess, and he finds her and resumes the slaughter.
Because that’s what these revenge fantasies are all about. Slaughter. You set up some really, really bad men (usually extremely stupid bad men), they do something awful, and an avenging angel descends on them like the wrath of Charles Bronson. In this case, it ties into the first movie, where Liam’s daughter was kidnapped and used in the white slavery trade. In the course of rescuing her, he kills at least ten men. Those men had relatives, of course, in Albania, and as they are being buried the father of the chief abductor/rapist/pimp vows revenge on Liam and his family. That his son was a total piece of shit doesn’t enter into it.
I find these movies viscerally exciting, if they’re done reasonably well, and I think both of these were. Yeah, they’re straw men, easy for our man to knock down like ninepins. By my actual count, he kills 23 men (I don’t know just how many were in the two SUVs that crashed and burned, but I counted those as just two dead, a driver and a gunner). At last Liam finds the “mastermind,” the last man left of his small army, has him with a gun to his head. I wanted him to say “So, how’s the revenge thing working out for you, you Albanian fuckhead?” Liam isn’t that bad, of course, he kills only when he has to to save his family. But it’s what I would have said. I’m meaner. But he stays smart right up to the end, giving the idiot a chance to walk away if it can all end here. Like everything else he has done, the mastermind fucks it up.
Which is interesting, because one of the reasons Liam wanted to end it is that the mastermind has two sons back in Goat Turd, Albania, and they will probably come looking for revenge. Taken 3? I’d advise against it, but we’ll probably see it.