‘Taken 2’ is watered down for PG-13, should have been hard-R

Liam Neeson takes care of business in 'Taken 2'
Liam Neeson takes care of business in ‘Taken 2’

This is a film that Liam Neeson said he wasn’t interested in making until he read what he felt was a terrific script from Robert Mark Kamen and Luc Besson. Apparently it was better in his hand than the final product that was delivered to the big screen, although it is by no means awful.

Taken 2 reunites retired CIA operative (at least we assume he was CIA) “Bryan Mills” (Neeson) with his daughter “Kim” (Grace) and his ex-wife “Lenore” (Janssen). The new husband of Lenore we meet in the original Taken is not seen, although he does figure in the story we’re told. Just in case you missed the original, Kim went to Paris to follow a rock band across Europe, but was kidnapped to be sold into sexual slavery within a few hours of her arrival. Fortunately she was on the phone with her father when the kidnappers came and somehow he managed to track them down and rescue her, killing most of the kidnappers in the process.

Now he’s teaching Kim to drive and about to leave for a security job in Istanbul. When the new husband, who is separating from Lenore, churlishly cancels a trip to China that Lenore and Kim were about to depart on, Bryan invites them to join him in Istanbul for a few days after his security job is over.

Melissa Grace goes on the run in 'Taken 2'
Melissa Grace goes on the run in ‘Taken 2’

Meanwhile, “Murad Kraniqi” (Serbedzija) is plotting revenge against Bryan Mills. He is the father of one of the men Mills killed in saving his daughter and worse yet, Mills tortured him for information.

The plan is to grab Mills and the two women important to him, but Kim escapes capture by a fortunate series of events. That’s a familiar theme here, a fortunate series of events. But Bryan and Lenore are taken. Naturally Bryan manages to contact Kim and escape and the struggle is on. Can Bryan rescue Lenore? Can he keep Kim safe? Can he manage to find a way to settle things with Kraniqi once and for all, without having to kill every relative he has anywhere?

The action is decent. Kamen and Besson have constructed characters with substance in Mills and the two women he loves. But Krasniqi is a cliché as are all of the thugs who work for him. They’re brilliantly competent in locating Mills and family, but can’t capture them or hold on to them worth a damn. Worse yet, the action and violence is toned down, probably to get the film’s final rating of PG-13. Better a hard, R-rated film that’s more honest than a toned-down piece that draws a larger audience, but is nowhere nearly as satisfying.

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