I am not much of a regular movie goer, but happened to watch Taken (the first one). Sort of liked it particularly because Liam Neeson acted so well. So when the sequel came out, it was more or less an obligation to watch it.
Fans of Hollywood are used to heroes (typically American, with an odd briton thrown in, wait for the Skyfall review!), saving the entire world with their valour. So it is a bit of change to watch a hero that has more modest ambitions - that of saving his own family. Not that he short changes your expectations in any way. If Sly Stallone manages to reduce the Vietnamese population to a great extent, Neeson practically makes Albanians extinct. Sparing a few that are probably saved for the next sequel.
The film starts with a Islamic burial ceremony in remote Albania, a precursor to a lot of violence and deaths that follow. The chief villain, father of the baddie killed by Neeson in Episode 1, is now out for revenge. The fact that his son kidnapped young women, drugged and forced them into prostitution seems to be lost on him. At one point, he even says that doesn't matter. Perhaps the message here is a bit political - the justification of terror and violence using grievances often false in the first place.
The scene of most action is the Turkish capital of Istanbul. In fact the rooftops of the Grand Bazaar featured in this film are also used for a thrilling motorcycle chase in Skyfall. Wonder if the producers managed to get some sort of volume discount from the Turkish government or perhaps a fee for promoting tourism.
Neeson, as usual, features in every scene and shows what a fine actor he is. Just the right mix of anger, worry and affection for his family that he manages to consistently portray throughout the film. His ex-wife, who will probably end up as his wife again by the time Taken 3 is out, is also played by a very good actor, Jamke Hansen. Talking of connections to James Bond, she was villainess in one of the Bond movies.
Thanks to these two actors, with decent backup by others, we can forgive the somewhat silly and unbelievable sequences. Like the smoke signal one. Having secured a gun through this miracle, and making his priorities clear, Neeson leaves his bleeding wife behind in the villains' den, going after his daughter who is threatened by a lone gunner. When he comes back, he finds her gone, and follows her captors to a Turkish Hamam (bathing house) where the movie ends in predictable fashion. Villain dead, but not before clarifying that he has yet another son who will take over his duties in the next sequel. One wonders what other kidnapping the director will dream up for that one, since the entire family has been through it now. Perhaps there is a grandfather kept in reserve.
One particularly hilarious (no, the director did not have comedy in mind) scene has Neeson calling his friend in USA to stop the American embassy guards from firing on his vehicle. That is after he crashed through the gates and barriers, killing a few more in the process and lands right in front of the main lobby. Oh by the way, the car was driven by his daughter who failed the driving test back home.
The inevitable question that is on everyone's mind when it comes to sequels - Is this better than Taken 1? Probably not. Why? Because the actions sequences in the first one was a lot more exciting and less filmy.
But I did enjoy watching it so it is worth the $10 I spent on it..