The first “Taken” pirouetted on the idea of a Dad Fantasy, that being no one you know can be trusted, foreigners have the worst intentions, and Daddy Knows Best. Milking the same reservoir that entertained audiences in the “Meet The Parents” series, where the overprotective patriarch played by Robert DeNiro would not stop henpecking his son-in-law, “Taken” was easily more amusing than any moment in the 'Parents' trilogy, simply by playing it straight-faced: your loving dad was right, is always right, and now is going to prove his worth by saving your ass. Invasion of privacy be damned. If you’re thrown off by a comparison between “Taken” and “Meet The Parents,” consider that both feature tough guy leading men as their anal father-figures, who are openly hostile towards a daughter who appears to be old enough to know better, and have a decidedly sinister background in law enforcement. Though, only one of these films is actually funny.
Ergo, since the word “Taken” is in the title, and because we know this is a sequel, we should be ready to jump in. Instead, the tension between Bryan and ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen, deserving better) is rehashed without being deepened. She’s naturally attracted to this Irish asskicker who has already proven his bonafides as a protector and a provider for their daughter, but his love seems to be exclusively reserved for his young pride and joy Kim (Maggie Grace). It's to the point where, the film unintentionally suggests, she has been infantilized so heavily that despite clearly being in her mid-twenties, she is struggling in driving lessons and sneaking away from daddy to make out with boys.
The culprit is a soft-spoken killer (Rade Serbedzija) who makes no apologies for his son, who died at Mills’ hands in the first film for the crime of participating in an international sex trafficking ring. The idea of Mills’ crows coming home to roost is a decent one, and suggests Besson knew exactly what he was doing when he allowed Mills to wage a dead-serious rampage across France in the first picture. Also clever is a bit where, in order to triangulate his position, Bryan instructs his daughter to strategically throw triggered grenades, destroying infrastructure so that the Americans can essentially, in a grander sense, know where they are. These moments of commentary suggest that at one point, certain people weren’t asleep at the wheel.
Neeson, to his credit, never waves in his dedication to his craft, which is why people seem to forget his resume is littered with more b-movies than the prestige pictures with which he was once associated. His skin weathered, his height suddenly giving him a slightly hunchbacked curve, his smile as pained as ever, Neeson is a natural at this grimacing protector role. It’s not a surprise that he most resembles an older Charles Bronson in “Taken 2,” as both found the enthusiasm to soldier on in the action genre well into their old age. Bronson had a bit more patience with these films: after this, it’s doubtful Neeson will. [D+]