Since this film has been No. 1 on both sides of the Atlantic for the last two weeks, I thought I would overcome my reservations and go and see it. While I wouldn't claim it as a masterpiece, it is a long way from being a complete clunker. It simply does what it promises to do.
And better still, it's really short; in and out in less than 90 minutes. Big Bad Bryan (Liam Neeson) had to go and rescue his daughter from Albanian kidnappers in Paris a couple of years ago, killing them all in the process. Inevitably they left behind grieving and vengeful relatives, who swear to take it out the large violent American. If he'd stayed in L.A., things might have been simpler (and a lot duller), but he and his semi-estranged wife Leonore (Famke Janssen) plus daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) decide to go on a holiday to Istanbul, a convenient hop skip and jump from the badlands of Albania. They're coming to get him. I wonder who will win?
Let me say right away that the plot is preposterous, starting with the fact that the Albanians mostly speak English to each other, and finishing with the fact that the director is called Oliver Megaton. But what exactly do you expect? It's an action thriller, not a character drama. All we're looking for is an excuse for Neeson to go apeshit on the bad guys, and off you go. There's the prelude in the USA where he does a De Niro (Meet The Parents) on his daughter, and makes all nice with Leonore whose love life is troubled. Then we get some tourist shots of Istanbul looking great (it is The film location of 2012); and finally, it's kick ass, shoot em up, drive fast, non stop biff bang thank you Liam. Subtle? No. Exciting? Well yes, if you like that kind of thing.
We all know that Neeson's career seems stuck in some strange rut, consisting of blockbusters and violent action movies. Maybe he's sulking because he got replaced as Lincoln by Daniel Day Lewis. But you have to admit that for a 60 year old, he still looks in good shape. Humourless, true, and improbably ruthless and resourceful in all circumstances. Helped too by the bad guys behaving as incompetently as bad guys always do, such as failing to search their captives, or shooting straight. This is not, by any stretch of the imagination a good film. But it gives a quick shot of adrenalin, is not as gruesomely violent as you would expect, and – without giving too much away – it all ends happily. Not for The Exotic Salmon Fishing Hotel mob, of course, but perfectly serviceable for an undemanding audience.
Taken 2: The Cleaners? Possibly, but not so much that it hurts.