Friday, October 5, 2012

Ten Statements About....TAKEN 2 (2012)

For God's sake, he punched wolves in the face; what
chance do you think some Albanians stand?
"If I kill you, your other sons will come and seek revenge?"
"They will..."
"And I will kill them too."
1) First off, I'm really relieved that what the trailers hinted at--namely, that Maggie Grace's Kim was going to transform into a hot, flip-floped, bikini'd, braided version of Brian as she rescues her father and mother--didn't happen. Kim does help Brian escape, and becomes the driver in a pretty harrowing car chase in the middle of the second act, but she's still just a girl unfamiliar with the kind of life her father led....and mercifully she's written out for the film's third act.

2) I like the fact that the film chooses as its setting Istanbul, another very beautiful city like Paris, but one that's much more exotic and strange, giving us a greater sense of being adrift in enemy territory. I can almost seeing Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen cranking out new scripts where Brian and Kim find themselves in a new picturesque city defending themselves against a new threat for up and coming directors to shoot. But then...

3) There is a definitive whiff of Besson and Kamen being very self-conscious about this now being a franchise. There are a number of decisions made in this film--from the rather abrupt writing out of Lenore's husband so they can rekindle her romance with Brian to the way a potential extension of this storyline is brought up in the climax--that seem to have been made so that Taken 3, Taken 4 and beyond are already set up. Those decisions stick out as weirdly inorganic and not pertinent to the story.

4) And what would a sequel be without the Unnecessary Cameo By A Beloved Character From The First Film...except that there are several moments where Leland Orsier's Sam could be used logically. Hell, he's referenced several times during the proceeding before his all-too-brief second appearance, and any one of those references could have brought forth a cameo.
Ladies and gentleman, the real reason Maggie Grace is
Lic Besson's muse...

5) It's fairly clever that the story is inverted not only in the obvious way (it's Brian and Lenore who are taken, not Kim), but in the motivations of the characters--Rade Serbedzija's Murad points out that he is operating out of grief over the death of his son just as Brian operated out of love of his daughter in the first film. It gives the movie a strange dark mirror aspect, and results in a fairly nuanced final confrontation.

6) Famke Janssen--who, incidentally, still looks mad hot--is a lot more lively in this film, although I question the decision to reposition her so violently at the beginning of the flick. That being said, there's some really uncomfortable stuff with her being tortured that really stands out like a sore thumb. There's one scene in particular that director Oliver Megaton seems to dwell on far too much, as if he's expecting us to get some dark, shameful joy at what's happening to her.

Yes. That's his name. Oliver. Megaton.

7) I am so relieved that Luke Grimes' Jamie is introduced as Kim's boyfriend and....nothing. He seems to be a little sleazy in his first scene, but he proves to be just a good guy who likes Kim. I can think of a dozen other writers who, in similar movies, would have made Jamie into a real asshat or, even worse, related to Murad's crew. That Besson and Karmen make him part of Kim's healing process and not a contributor to her further trauma is commendable. That being said...
It may be a new city...but this old wolf still hunts.

8) I think we could have spent a few more minutes addressing what Besson and Karmen seem to want us to treat as a major plot thread, namely Kim's shellshock over what happened in the last film. It's referred to a number of times in the first act, and the scene in the foot chase she's involved in where Kim is cornered and at first seems to be ready to show some defiance, only for her to collapse and beg for her life rings true to her nature...but the rest of the film she appears to act as if nothing happened. Hell, there's a couple of scenes that contrast what's going on with her parents and her bubbleheaded Skyping with Jamie. I don't know if this is due to Grace's deficiency as an actor or a conscious choice by the writers, but I think we needed more for her character arc to work.

9) There's one really inventive sequence that shows what Megaton is capable of--the sequence involving Brian trying to construct a map in his mind through counting out seconds and noticing incongruous sounds. It's done primarily through Brian POV, with his hooded eyes being intercut with hazy images of what he hears. This shows that Megaton might have a real career, and not the shaky-cam fight scene bullcrap that obfuscates the action in some stretches.

10) I understand ultimately why they had Brian hide that little mini-cell in his sock--the film would stop dead if he didn't do it--except that there's no reason for him to be sliding it in his sock. His assignment is over, he has no way of knowing the Albanians are coming for him, and he's about to go on a family outing with his ex-wife and child. It rings weird for him to do this, even with Brian's micromanagement of his life already established. It's a jarring moment in an otherwise logical script. it as good as the first film? Not exactly. Is is good? Yes. Yes it is.

I went to the Kip's Bay for this one (AMC still has a deep discount matinee for films before noon, although the price has gone up to $7)....and it was the first time since that legendary showing of Machete where I had problems with the show; we were treated to about fifteen minutes of nothing between the end of the Firstlook and the trailers. And the trailers--eight of them--was a real mishmash of stuff, including the first one for A Good Day To Die Hard that leaves me with a really, really bad feeling about this; the trailer for Skyfall that gives me a really, really good feeling about this; Identity Thief, which reminded me why I hate the average comedy these days; Broken City, a confused looking thriller that might be worthwhile if only to see Russell Crowe cosplaying as Rudy Guiliani; and the Rob Cohen directed, Tyler Perry starring Alex Cross which...doesn't look as bad as the TV spots have been leading me to think it'll be, although I feel it'll rise and fall on how adequate Perry is going to be.

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