I’m not an expert at this, so any scholars in the medical or biological fields are invited to correct me if I’m wrong. But, the way I understand, humans have inside their ears something called the vestibular system, the purpose of which being to provide us with equilibrioception, or the sense of balance.
Equilibrioception is what prevents you from falling on your face every time you take a step forward, and, among its other functions, it also stabilizes the images we sense with our eyes so we have a steady picture of the outside world despite all the constant wibble-wobble of our bodies. What that means is that, when a pretentious director tries to convey realism in his films with jiggling shaky cams, he’s absolutely full of crap, because that’s not how we perceive reality.
I’m talking to you, Olivier Megaton, director of Taken 2. Your name may be bangin,’ but you’re absolutely full of crap.
Taken 2, as the name subtly implies, is the second installment in the Taken series, which hit theaters this weekend. The series is all about an ex-CIA guy (Liam Neeson), who gets involved in several kidnappey situations involving his family and has to Jason Bourne his way out of them.
This time around, after having saved his daughter (Maggie Grace) from Central European sex slavers in the first film, ex-CIA guy decides that it would be a great idea to take her and his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) to Turkey, a country in walking distance from the smugglers’ native Albania. For that, he is a hot contender for the Nobel Prize of Being the Biggest Brain Genius of the World.
As expected, he is punished for his idiocy by having the chief of the Albanian Mafia (Rade Šerbedžija), whose son ex-CIA guy had killed in the previous film, kidnap him and his ex-wife, while the daughter plays the role of burdensome twerp (See also: Jaden Smith’s character in The Day the Earth Stood Still) who tries to help by putting herself in harm’s way.
Despite all the stupidity found in the plot, this movie is really jarred by the tone. I could forgive the idea of the baddies tying the super-powerful secret agent to a pipe in a basement full of sharp corners and leaving him there alone to go watch some soccer on TV and expecting him to diligently stay there if the film was trying to be deliberately cartoony (like Lethal Weapon or Die Hard), or deliberately retarded (like Crank), but no, it has this ambition of gritty realism that clashes head on with all the events.
It looks to me like a movie I would have written when I was 8-years-old and had just watched a half-hour long documentary about the vor v zakone on the Discovery Channel. I’d be going “Oh yeah, this is going to shock everyone … Dig this society: The world is not what you think it is! BOOM! In your face, bitch! How do you like them apples, huh?” But it would just end up becoming hilariously silly and earnest, and the first guy to read it and condescendingly tell me it was so rad would cause me to spend a whole week in my bedroom hiding my head under the pillows in shame.
If this movie really wanted to be true-to-life, then the only way it could succeed was to go full monty, Elite Squad-style, and depict a world where if you’re man-napped by the Albanian mafia, you’re going to end up in a ditch somewhere with an anus several sizes too big; where if you throw a grenade on top of a building in Istanbul, someone is likely to notice; and if you’ve just had your daughter rescued from Albanian criminals, you don’t take her to Istanbul.
There are some cool bits in this, like when the ex-CIA guy figures out his location by the sound of the explosions of the grenades his daughter throws outside, or when … well, actually, that’s pretty much it. But that would be a nice touch of verisimilitude on an unpretentious action film like Mission Impossible, but in Taken 2, it’s just a sad reminder of what could have been.
Watch it if you’re allergic to money.
On a side note: Liam Neeson apparently still hasn’t figured out the American accent thing, huh? Or maybe he just didn’t give a rat’s ass. Which he shouldn’t give, in any case.