*. Just when you thought it was safe to go back to Europe. Or maybe not quite Europe. Those dark lands on its borders. In Taken we had Albanians and Arabs. Now we’re off to Istanbul. The dark edges of Europe then.
*. Ah, Istanbul. It doesn’t look like it’s changed a bit since From Russia with Love (1963) or Topkapi (1964). The police even seem to be stuck driving the same cars, and the women are wearing burqas (which, I am told, is not the custom in Istanbul). But aside from some nice shots of the skyline, I wonder why they even bothered. We don’t even get to go inside Hagia Sophia, much less the Basilica Cistern. How disappointing.
*. Neeson wasn’t sure if he wanted to come back, but with the crazy success of Taken his return was basically inevitable. That said, I was puzzled by the success of the first movie and I’ll confess I’m even more so by the success of Taken 2.
*. I mean, this time out they didn’t even try. There are all of the problems that Taken had with no new redeeming features. The plot is a ridiculous contrivance to just set up the various action scenes. Plus Lenny (Famke Janssen) is newly available after separating from her jerk of a billionaire husband so it looks like the whole family thing is on track again. Instead of Kim becoming a pop star, dad now has to worry about her passing her driver’s exam. This is all just crap that they throw at us to make us think that maybe somebody, somewhere, saw a few pages of script.
*. The only way the plot works, in so far as we can say that it works, is because it’s partially set in a parallel universe where everything can be arranged with a phone call. Did you just shoot your way through most of Istanbul’s historic quarter? Just call one of your retired CIA buddies, they’ll fix everything, no problem.
*. Doesn’t your heart sink when you see that the DVD comes with an “alternate ending”? As I’ve said before, if you have an alternate ending that probably means you didn’t have an ending. And this is no slight alteration. The whole final third of the film is quite a bit different in the alternate version, with Bryan rescuing both Kim and Lenny and escaping via taxi. However, it was felt that this didn’t make Bryan’s motivation for returning to kill off the rest of the gang clear enough, so they changed it around so he had to go back and rescue Lenny.
*. Once again the bad guys aren’t very interesting. Once again editing does all the work in the action scenes. I’ve heard Neeson actually learned some martial arts to play the role, but I don’t see what the point was. If the fights are going to be cut so that you don’t have any shots that last more than two seconds, it’s not like you’re going to see any technique on display. You can make anyone look like a black belt with that kind of shake-and-bake choreography.
*. I knew Olivier “Megaton” couldn’t be the director’s real name. It isn’t. He was born Olivier Fontana.
*. Is Maggie Grace that bad an actress, or is it just a really awful part? After two movies I still can’t make up my mind. I think maybe it’s a lot of both.
*. This one was pretty much savaged by the critics, and justifiably so, but it still did great box office. Personally, I don’t think it’s any worse than the first film, which is saying nothing. Both movies suffer from worthless scripts, boring bad guys, throwaway plots, and an attempt to have frantic editing make up for a total lack of originality in the action scenes. But that didn’t seem to bother anyone, so . . .