Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Taken 2 (PG-13 - 91 minutes)

There's one thing you never get tired of - and that's seeing the bad guys get it.  This was a premise that worked well over and over again in the classic action movies of the 70s and 80s.  These action movies would have a lone hero, who was often a law enforcement officer of some type,  and disillusioned with the system.  He then has to go out on his own to get justice, or vengeance, or just to kill a bunch of punks. Best example of this - probably any of the Charles Bronson movies, Steven Seagal movies, and most perfectly - Dirty Harry:
 These movies had the 'old-school' mentality of one alpha-male type lead, who is able to get through any obstacle to achieve his goal.  This trend toned down near the end of the 80s/90s, especially when the Bourne Identity came out and made the 'smart' action movie the new trend.
The original Taken came out in 2008, and was a bit of a throwback to the 'old-school' action movies.  Exceptionally simple story:  the daughter of a 'security specialist' goes to Paris on vacation and gets snatched by Albanian sex-slave traders.  He goes to get her, killing everyone in his path.
The movie surprised everyone and was very profitable, having been made for very little money.  It also revitalized Liam Neeson's career, which had been in a bit of a 'classic actor-y' older-guidance figure roles.  He suddenly became a new action star.  Also - the movie spawned the "I have a specific set of skills" line that became used everywhere.
Because the movie was such a success - I suppose thoughts of a sequel must have been almost immediate.
The thing is - the first movie is wrapped up so neatly, why would you need a sequel? And in addition, the daughter had to have been so completely traumatized by the events in the first movie - why would she go anywhere unaccompanied?  The first movie was directed by Pierre Morel and written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen.  The one is written by Besson and Kamen again, but directed by Olivier Megaton.  Megaton has done Transporter 3 (not great), and Columbiana (pretty good) - so we know that he can shoot gritty action.
Neeson is back as Bryan Mills, he's been helping his daughter (Maggie Grace) with her driving lessons, while dealing with the fact that she has a new boyfriend and his ex (Famke Janssen) is having difficulty with her new husband.  He graciously asks them to join him in Istanbul after he finishes his most recent job, to give them a change to unwind (because for a family that just went through a traumatic overseas kidnapping, hanging out in Istanbul is super relaxing).  Well, apparently, everyone that Mills killed in the first movie had relatives - we see their funerals at the beginning of this movie - Rade Serbedzija (that is spelled different ways on different movies he is in) plays the father of one of these killed men, he promptly sets off on a revenge plot to come and take the family again.  Mills is forced to once again use his special set of skills to save his family.
There's not much of  a cast, but the people who are present are capable:
  • Liam Neeson is Bryan Mills, no surprise there.  Once again in this movie he has one scene where he is hanging out with his friends (Leland Orser, D.B. Sweeney, Jon Gries - who again have no action scenes, I thought for sure they would show up to rescue the family - nope.  They apparently just hang around and play golf).  Neeson is perfect in this role, as he was in the first one.  He has his angry growl, and is completely believable as a man who will stop at nothing to save his family.  The most fun scenes are the ones in which he deals with his daughter's new boyfriend.  Neeson has re-invented himself, and owns this role - quietly determined and understated, but viciously powerful at the same time.
  • Maggie Grace is back as the daughter, Kim.  She has more to do in this movie and is a little less victimy.  If I had been writing this movie, the story would have been that the two parents get kidnapped, and she goes on revenge-based killing spree to save/rescue her parents.  A slightly different take, I suppose, but it would have been more interesting - because surely the character has spent every minute since the last movie in martials classes and marksmenship training.
  • Famke Janssen is back as the ex-wife/mother.  She again, has more to do, but it's still not much.  She's great with what she has - some concern, then terror, then relief.  I've been a fan of hers since her appearance in GoldenEye, and through the X-Men movies, she was decent as Jean Grey - but even better as the dark Phoenix.  There is a particularly creepy scene where the bad guys give her a tiny cut on the face, then hang her upside down while Mills is forced to watch and calculate how long it will take her to bleed out when all the blood rushes to her head.
  • Croatian actor Rade Serbedzija plays the main villian, the Albanian coordinating the plot to avenge their fallen brothers.  Rade has been in many many movies - he's always fascinating.  My favorite thing that he's done was the crazy Russian in Snatch.

The movie is exactly what it promises to be - which is more of the same from the first one.  However, where the first was clean and simple, and a throwback to a style of movie we hadn't seen in a while; this one feels completely redundant.  Like I said, had there been some sort of twist in it, the daughter getting back her 'taken' parents, or some other such difference, that would have given the movie a fresher feel.  As it is - it's not terrible, and if you loved the first one, you'll like this one.
6 out of 10.  Gained points for the giant chocolate sundaes in the last scene - made me want some ice cream.  Lost points for the daughter (who is still taking driving lessons) being able to drive a taxi in Instanbul well enough to evade shooting bad guys.  Gained points for the one scene where the daughter is a little action-hero-y.  Lost points because it was only that scene.
Bonus Video 1:  Liam Neeson on SNL in "Get in the Cage".
Bonus Video 2:  Liam Neeson insisting on doing improvisational comedy NOW on Life's too Short.
Bonus Video 3: Famke Janssen on Conan oBrien in 1995 to promote GoldenEye...
Bonus Video 4:  Cast Interviews!

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