Agent Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) has made a few enemies recently. Over a year ago, he was saving his teenage daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) and her friend from people traffickers and in the process killed a few bad guys. But even bad guys have friends and relations who loved them, so it is when the Albanian gangsters behind the modern slavery operation, led by kingpin Murad Krasniqi (Rade Serbedzija), have buried their dead they are determined to stop Mills in his tracks once and for all. Revenge is the order of the day, they just have to bide their time until he is within their grasp, then strike...
And if he's brought his family along, so much the better, let's make an occasion of it. This was the follow-up to the sizeable cult hit Taken, which had set Neeson on a path of the most mature man of action since the days when Charles Bronson was blowing away villains with his great big gun, and while there were still stars of the nineteen-eighties who had been shooting people and exploding things in the name of entertainment plugging away at the genre, Neeson was relatively new at the game, though audiences were glad to see him join their ranks. Even so, Taken 2 might have been a hit, but it wasn't exactly relished with the same enthusiasm.
The main problem was that it was not Mills hunting down his daughter this time around, but his daughter hunting down him. The plot could be split into three acts, starting with a long, drawn out establishing of the premise that most of those watching would be already up to speed with and therefore shifting in their seats waiting for the action to begin. It took half an hour (half an hour!) to commence the suspense, with Mills and his wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) accompanied by Kim, inexplicably all travelling to Turkey together in spite of the troubles which afflicted them last time that happened. Fearless, or simply stupid? It wasn't a good sign when you were querying the common sense of the supposedly super-able hero.
Anyway, as if you hadn't guessed there was a contingent of very angry Albanians out for blood, but naturally they've been ordered to take the three Americans alive. Therefore while Kim stays at the hotel to contact her boyfriend (over-protective Mills doesn't approve, of course) her parents are chased through the streets of Istanbul and eventually captured and imprisoned. Now, much of the entertainment value of the original was seeing Mills make life difficult for the gangsters because he was able to turn the tables on them and make the criminals fear for their lives, but swapping the roles wasn't anywhere near as satisfying. Plus it was Kim who was doing most of the proactive business of finding and freeing her folks.
Imagine if a season of 24 on television had focused on Jack Bauer being saved by his daughter (also called Kim... hmm) and you had some idea of how Taken 2 didn't amuse half as much as it did first time around. The last act may have seen Mills freed and on the warpath, but aside from the shooting it was still Kim doing a lot of the work, fair enough and typical of producer and co-writer Luc Besson to want to give a better role in the story to the female, but you just didn't buy Maggie Grace as a tough, grim-minded agent of vengeance, and they didn't convince that, for example Kim could be capable of stunt driving her way through busy Turkish streets in a car chase while her father took care of the firing off shots at their pursuers in the passenger seat. The original may have been implausible, but it was indulgently so, this was merely competent at best, and you didn't really want to come out of an action movie exclaiming, "Wow! That was really competent!" Music by Nathaniel Méchaly.