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Movie Review: Taken 2 and the 5 rules of making a Hollywood sequel

by Nikhil Taneja  Oct 14, 2012 10:21 IST

#FilmCrit   #Liam Neeson   #Movie review   #Taken 2  

After watching the very badass Liam Neeson’s new movie, Taken 2, which I was desperately looking forward to because the original was all sorts of fantastic, I have been enlightened in strange ways. There was this bright light, and a tunnel, and it was dark and all of a sudden, my mind was filled with knowledge that helped me figure out the art of making a big-budget hit Hollywood film sequel. Here are five commandments that can come in handy for you too, whenever you make your hit Hollywood movie and are confused about what to do in the sequel:

1. Thou shalt not have any plot, whatsoever

It’s sort of stupid, isn’t it? Because if the studio had a script with a plot or a story of its own, why on earth would it waste it on a sequel? It would much rather make another movie out of it, which could have its own sequel with no plot! Actually, it’s sort of genius, then!

This, of course, is painfully obvious in Taken 2, where the plot is exactly as elaborate as the movie’s poster tagline: They want revenge. They chose the wrong guy. In the original, Taken, the daughter of a retired CIA agent, Bryan Mills (Neeson) is kidnapped by human traffickers and he has to use his “particular set of skills” to save her. In Taken 2, Mills and his wife are kidnapped by the same guys — because they want to kill him for killing their relatives in the first movie. The only thing thinner than this plot is the IQ of the mafia, which brings us to the next point.

2. Thou shalt have stupid bad guys
Of course, this is an obsolete argument, because if the bad guy was intelligent, the good guy would die and more than anything else, there would be no more sequels. So it’s important for villains to do daft things like not kill the good guy after they capture him because they want him to feel pain (*cough*, The Dark Knight Rises, *cough*).

But here’s the level of daftness of the bad guys in Taken 2. In a major turning point of the movie (it’s even in the trailer), Mills’ ex-wife is held on gunpoint and he’s asked to give up his arms and be taken, or his ex-wife dies. Like a good estranged husband, Mills gives up his arms, but after making a minute-long phone call to his daughter in front of the bad guys, systematically explaining to her the situation he is in right now and what she needs to do to not get caught, as the understanding, well-intentioned bad guys wait for him to be done, because they probably have daughters too, you know. And after all, the most he could have been doing on the call was call reinforcements, right? …Wait, what?

Liam Neeson in a scene from "Taken 2." 20th Century Fox, Magali Bragard/AP

3. Thou shalt have foreign villains
It has always made so much more sense to Hollywood to have villains who are not only menacing and evil, but talk in a language, that – HORROR OF HORRORS – they can’t understand! So Hollywood villains are generally outsourced cheap labour from Eastern Europe, Russia, the Middle East and South America (never India, because Indians probably don’t have the time to be evil since they are so busy in taking over US jobs and driving cabs). Also, it’s just creepier when the good guy has no clue if the bad guys are plotting a nuclear strike or discussing Bigg Boss in front of him.

Taken 2 takes this commandment and as a first, turns it uniquely over its head — in the movie, it’s not just the good guy who can’t understand the frightening foreign villains, apparently the hipster foreign villains can’t understand him either (because learning English is so mainstream, yo). Or else why would the bad guys spend approximately 15 minutes of screen time looking for Mills’ daughter — after he called her in front of them and told her to hide in the closet?

4. Thou shalt have fiery dialogue exchanges… sort of
Every mainstream Hollywood movie depends as much on its big-budget special effects and action as it does on its dialog.... *chokes with laughter*. Sorry, I couldn’t get through with that sentence with a straight face. Here’s an example of the exact dialogue exchange the main bearded baddie has with Mills, after he has caught him and his wife, and is torturing them — with his accent, that is — rather than, you know, killing him:

Bad guy: I will kill you because you killed my sons
Mills: But they kidnapped my daughter first!
Bad guy: I don’t care, they were my sons!
Mills: But they sell young girls to Arabs!!
Bad guy: BUT THEY WERE MY SONS.
Mills: You know what, just kill me. Before your accent or logic do.

Okay, maybe I paraphrased that last bit, just a little bit.

5. Thou shalt substitute intelligence with action

So where do the studios put the money that could have bought them a decent plot, good dialogue writer, and locally-sourced American bad guys that could have helped the unemployment rate too? Answer: In LOTS of unapologetic, in-your-face action and kickass action. Taken 2 has a lot of those, and that’s always, always a good thing.

There’s also a sixth, secret commandment here, which really isn’t that much of a secret, or much of a commandment, for that matter. No matter how badly you do, if the audience liked the first movie, it will watch the sequel and then wait for the threequel to buy the DVD box-set (guilty, as charged). And where Taken 2 is concerned, plot or no plot, watching Liam Neeson kick butt is always going to be worth it!