Taken 2 is the sequel to the 2008 powerhouse by the same name. It’s from the same writers (Besson and Kamen), but has another director, Olivier Megaton, who comes to this from Colombiana and Transporter 3. While I liked this almost as much as the original (probably because of Liam Neeson), the critics are still Luke warm about it and it was slightly less clear and compelling than the original. Why is that? I suspect the surprise and single-minded purpose of Taken got lost in Istanbul.
This story is about an ex-CIA agent (with really goofy CIA buddies) who flies into driving distance from Tropojia with all its bad guys and is then surprised that he and his family are targeted. His lightning-fast reflexes and anticipation belie allowing his vulnerable loved ones to join him in such a place. This time his estranged wife (Famke Janssen) moves into the spotlight while daughter (Maggie Grace) runs around and gets brave…. really?
Liam once again makes mincemeat out of the Albanian tough guys. They literally hardly lay a hand on him even though he does make reference to being too old for all this. It’s the overwhelming and focused way he works to save his family is what makes this franchise work…..but I see little hope for a threequel….who else can he save, the cat?
So this is like a relative value arbitrage that tightens up and moves on. Unless Lam expands his personal horizons and trades a new market, he may find himself giving back money at the box office.
[dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;"] B [/dropcap] attleship had some pretty spectacular trailers with Admiral Liam Neeson and Lieutenant Taylor Kitsch (of John Carter infamy) co fronted by seagoing transformers. What could easily have been another blah special effects also-ran, was, however, a much better movie than expected despite the lousy Metascore of 41. In fact, when you look at director Peter Berg’s pedigree with Friday Night Lights, The Kingdom and Hancock and the writers’ (the Hoeber brothers) credits for RED and Whiteout, it’s easier to see why this was not a bad movie at all.
It was much more about the script and special effects than the acting, but Kitsch, Brooklyn Decker and Rihanna keep us interested in the human element of this struggle. Basically, the aliens have divided to conquer and the few must battle the powerful. This is the set up for the perfect Memorial Day denouement…. The re-launching of the USS Missouri with the help of an array of WWII and Korean veterans who work with the modern sailors to crush the final alien ship.
It is hard to describe why this movie was as entertaining as it was, but the combination of cast, effects, story line and the relatively unique theme of the Navy as the instrument of saving the wold from aliens simply worked.
It’s like some hedge funds where the individual elements do not seem particularly special, but the fund results are still good enough o satisfy investors well enough to stay in business. Many movies don’t deserve to be made. Others are great films. But the vast majority fall in the middle, and they rise or fall on the pure art of execution…..perhaps in the editing room. For whatever reason, I think this film works and suggest it as an entertaining way to spend a few hours.
[dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;"] T [/dropcap] he Grey is the latest film about man against nature. Liam Neeson, as the poster implies, is far and away the central character. He is an oil company hunter who shoots wolves and other varmints that threaten pipeline workers in the frozen north. We get a realistic and unglamorous view of life on the pipeline that one roustabout describes as “hard work all day and hard drinking all night”. In addition to the harsh life on the Arctic Circle, The Grey is also about the grey spirit of the mind when people lose their will to live.
Neeson is as powerful as ever and simply exudes a toughness (both physical and mental) that is unmatched by the roughest characters. When one knows about Neeson’s personal loss with the death of Natasha Richardson, the personal pain we recognize in his character’s flashbacks to his wife make the pain and suffering all the more real. He just seems to be a man who puts up with nothing and cares little about anything…except that is, for truth and strength. He seems to admire the wolves he shoots and soothes them into death with the hand of a wolf-whisperer. The only other character worthy of a bearded mention is Dermot Mulroney….who still looks too quirky to look right in a beard.
The economy of the north is pretty primal. Money only comes into play in two ways. When their plane goes down, the few survivors among the roust-abouts start to loot the dead and Neeson insists that they save the wallets for the relatives….and eventually, these become symbols for life. It is a strange reference since life in the circumstances of surviving a plane crash and killer wolves and the frozen climes has absolutely nothing to do with money. Of course those of us who look for commerce in everything can find logging markers and there is always a strong Darwinian theme to fall back on when survival is the theme.
This film was gruesome and grey by design and there was little to make one happy in the bleakness of January, but Neeson is strong and survival always has a dramatic flair.