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Taken 2: skip the film and cut to the chase

  • Created on Sunday, 10 February 2013 16:45
  • Written by Martin Bigg

Taken 2 is the very definition of a heinous Hollywood cash-in. The original worked perfectly as a standalone film, and yet its sequel has us believe that lead character Brian Mills seemingly has the same sort of luck as Die Hard's John MccLane.

After saving his kidnapped daughter Kim from human traffikers in the first film, the father figure and ex CIA operative gets ‘taken’ himself along with his ex wife Lenore by a gang of Albanian henchman out to seek revenge for the countless number of men that Brian shot, punched and electrecuted in the last film. All in all, while entertaining, Taken 2 pales in comparison to the acclaimed original thanks to its lazy writing, ridiculous plot and watered-down violence.

Fortunately, there was at least one aspect of the sequel that improved on its predecessor. You guessed it: the car chase.

After Brian escapes captivity and saves Kim from pursuing henchman, he attempts to reunite with Lenore as Kim waits in a stolen taxi. As if the film was already woefully unoriginal, the filmmakers had the audacity to copy Drive and their use of The Chromatic's 'Tick of the Clock' to create suspense during this scene as Brian searches for Lenore against the clock. Unforgivable.

In an alternative ending seen in the home release of Taken 2, Brian manages to successfully rescue Lenore who comes along for the ride in the chase, resulting in different interior dialogue scenes. Brian’s motivations for chasing and executing the lead villains were therefore somewhat darker compared to the final cut where his primary motivation was to save Lenore.

Brian returns after failing to rescue Lenore who is whisked away in a van, and it’s up to him and Kim to drive to safety at the US Embassy. There’s just one problem: Kim is technically a learner driver, having failed her test twice. And yet we’re somehow led to believe that, despite her constant complaining about her own incompetence throughout the chase, she’s somehow capable of driving a manual Mercedes (I presume she would have learnt in an automatic) with considerable skill. As far as I know, evasive reverse 180s, tailslides and handbrake turns aren’t part of a standard driving test. Although perhaps they should be, if you should find yourself in a similar situation.

It’s a shame that the contrived setup diminishes the scene’s credability, not to mention the fact that actress Maggie Grace is clearly a lot older than Kim who is still portrayed as a troublesome teenager, because there is some daring driving on display as the Mercedes and its pursuing vehicles barrel through the tight narrow streets of Istanbul. It’s a location that is rarely used as the backdrop for car scenes, and yet it seems like an ideal car chase location.

Apparently, local shopkeepers refused to close their businesses during filming of the chase on location – many of the passers-by were real Turkish commuters going about their business, adding to the risk factor. Liam Neeson even admitted to being terrified during the filming of the scene, and was instantly reminded why he doesn’t like rollercoasters.

Initially, the chase starts at a somewhat pedestrian pace as Kim struggles to control the cab, spinning out of control and barging into Istanbul’s police force who apparently still drive crusty cars from the 1970’s. It's hardly representative of modern-day Turkey, which reportedly prompted outrage from Turkish residents.

After smashing the tacky Turkish police cars into submission, the chase picks up the pace as a Mercedes ML 4x4 filled with gun toting bad guys convieniantly resumes the pursuit right on cue. Neeson does what any action hero would do at this point: lean out the window and fire arbitrary pop shots. Meanwhile, the stilted dialogue between Brian and Kim continues: “Faster Kim!” Brian barks in that trademark Liam Neeson authorative voice. “I can’t!”, she squirms. “Do it!” “I can’t!” At no point do the exchanges sound natural, and Kim’s incessant ineptitude soon grates.

At this point, we get to see the standout stunt of the chase. Approaching a busy junction, Kim (sorry, a professional French stunt driver) executes a superb handbrake turn, causing a BMW traffic car to swerve into the path of the pursuing 4x4. The Mercedes comes to an abrupt halt and Brian leans out the window, gun in hand in perfect harmony to take out his pursuers, sending the ML soaring over the BMW before crash landing and rolling over several times before landing upside down.

Unfortunately, Taken 2’s chase suffers from shaky cam syndrone and incoherent rapid cut editing, as director Oliver Megaton reprises his kinetic direction last seen in Transporter 3. The aforementioned handbrake turn is a prime example - the use of approximately two dozen shots looks completely overdone.

But it’s not over yet, as another identical black Mercedes ML joins in the fury as the chase continues through a trainyard. You don’t even need to have seen the trailer to predict what happens next.

Yes, it’s one of our favourite car chase cliches of dodge the train! Cue another excuse to repeat the same dismal dialogue: “Faster Kim!” Brian shouts again. “I can’t!”, Kim replies. Unsurprisingly, Kim and Brian just about make it through unscathed, whereas the enemy vehicle gets broadsided by the unstoppable freightliner before being dragged down the rail line and exploding in a typical Hollywood fireball.

With the bad guys left to cook in the smouldering wreckage, Brian and Kim arrive at their destination, but not without impolitely ploughing through the US Embassy’s hut in a glorious slow motion shot of flying glass and debris. A spectacular end to an entertaining car chase.

Despite my disdain for Kim's presence and Megaton’s direction, Taken 2’s car chase manages to surpass the original’s. Taken's chase was destructive yet shortlived, but Taken 2’s chase improves on it in almost every respect, with a longer running time, more daring driving and superior stuntwork.

Money talks in Hollywood, and considering that Taken 2 was a hit in the Box Office despite its mediocore reviews, this no doubt won’t be the last we see of Liam Neeson’s seminal action hero. Indeed, Taken 3 is already said to be in the pipeline, with plans to shake up the formula next time round. Not that they had much choice now that every character has been ‘taken.’

Hopefully it won’t be shaken up too much to the extent that we won’t be treated to another car chase action sequence. Just please, please don’t let Kim drive next time.

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