Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Height of Hilarity

Taken 2       Final Cut Score: 65%


It's not often a movie smashingly succeeds on a level it has no intentions of succeeding on. And for that, the makers of Taken 2 deserve high praise, a film that bills itself as a thriller but scores some of biggest soda-spitting laughs of 2012.

Liam Neeson is back as Bryan Mills, cashing a mega-paycheck to saunter through a rehash of the same rubbish we saw nearly four years ago in the surprise smash Taken. This go around, the ex-CIA operative and his fam are targeted by the father of one of the Albanian thugs Mills offed the last go around. And let me tell you, revenge is a dish best served riotously laughable.

Want ridiculous? Soon after arriving in Istanbul, stuck in a cab, bad guys closing in on all sides, Mills turns to his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) and barks out his plan to get out of the jam. Now I'm just slightly paraphrasing here, but it goes something like this: "Get out of the cab, walk through the alley, turn right, then left at the next alley, you'll see a flight of stairs, go up the stairs, go back down the stairs, turn right, two doors will be in front of you, go through the one on the right and then make a quick left. I'll be waiting there for you." That's right about the point I spit soda all over my shirt - the first time.

How about this absurdity: With Mills wrists chained to a pipe in a rundown warehouse, he manages to flip his iPod Nano-esque phone from the side of his shoe, into his hands to make a call to his daughter (Maggie Grace), giving her directions to track him down. His scheme? Have her toss a grenade out her hotel room window, onto the roof of a nearby building so that Mills can then judge how long it takes for him to hear the explosion. With that information, he begins to lead her across town to his torture room.

Now based on my experience from lobbing grenades about in Grand Theft Auto III, the action tends to mobilize law enforcement officers en masse, curious as to who's randomly blowing things up for kicks. But bizarrely, Turkish officials don't seem to care as she proceeds to throw more grenades, getting closer and closer to her dad with every pin pulled. I'd like to apologize to the moviegoers seated next to me, who were treated to my uncontrollable convulsions of laughter.

Taken 2's "script" comes courtesy of the same pair that penned the first, Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen. As the above examples aptly demonstrate, the duo have no limits to their nonsensicalities. With orders to take the three members of the Mills clan alive, the bad guys are firing rounds into the windshield of the car Mills is driving. When his daughter has the gall to ask dad what the evildoers want, Mills replies: "I don't really know". Besson and Kamen's most egregious crime is the lack of a laugh track.

Director Olivier Megaton (Transporter 3) displays the skill set of a film student at DeVry. Swiping songs from Nicholas Winding Refn's masterpiece Drive, the Frenchman should be disbarred from the DGA for dreaming his project is even remotely worthy to be mentioned in the same breath. The look of Megaton's film is anything but artistic, direct-to-DVD releases share identical aesthetics.

While it will undoubtedly kill it at the box office, Taken 2 is a woefully slipshod cash grab, an embarrassment for all involved. Though the creative team behind the endeavor need be proud of one thing, they've - unintentionally - created an entirely new genre of film, the thromedy.