It’s best to leave some films “un-sequeled”
After a brief aestivation, Brian Mills is back. His daughter, who he saved in the first film, has aged beautifully, and has found a boyfriend, only to be disturbed by the father in what, presumably could have been her first sexual act. The wife though, has had issues—apparently so many that they’ve manifested themselves as wrinkles on her face. Mills hasn’t lost much of his insecurity—for which we have to thank Luc Besson ; it is Mills’ cagey behaviour—clubbed with some old school fist fighting that make the film passable.
The premise of the film is stated in the opening scene itself: the brothers and fathers of the wrongdoers who were disciplined (read bone-smashed, deeply impaled, and electrocuted to death) by Mills in Taken are back—and want to take him back to the Albanian town where they came from—apparently killing in a foreign land is not revenge-y enough. Too bad, the plan doesn’t work out, because equipped with a matchbox sized mobile phone, and lots of concern for his family, Mills is able to escape in around half an hour after his capture. This predictability mars the effect that the first film had created: that of the unknown mishap, and impending danger, an unrecognisable but imminent threat to be apprehended. Now that we are already used to Mills saving the day, the element of surprise is lost. But are there all misses and no hits? Let’s take a look.
The only thing about a film like this one is the mano y mano shots of the good guy and the bad guy. Taken is not a film that will generate serious discussions amongst film critics. At its best, the film is a guily pleasure. At its worst, it is what it is—a badly made film which has to its credit a fan following on account of an Oscar nominated star. The director, then, is expected to bank on the saleability of these features, and put together a film with similar, yet different scenes. There is not one fight, not a single bullet exchange scene that isn’t exactly the same as the previous film. What is left for the viewers to hold on to? Perhaps the package that is Mills—a mix of American faux morality, and single minded pursuit of saving the family, unmindful of wreckage caused in the process. For me, the package wasn’t enough to make me see almost the same film, a second time.
And does the new director step into the shoes of the older one with grace? Not if you take into account the line that he often crosses between making a film about a badass, and making a bad film itself. In one scene, which I felt was a clumsily pulled off Sherlock Holmes act, Mills tracks his way to the kidnapper’s residence through a shroud. It later struck me that the cunning Mills uses the same way to walk back to the place where his wife is moved later—except that his wife has actually been moved to a new location! This might be a minor flaw, but I felt that this was a classic act of taking the audience for granted. As if, the only thing that we were expected to watch was the fighting, and everything else, even a low tier retired CIA analyst promising that all will be fine if an American embassy is trespassed (and in what many would call, ‘high voltage’ style), is meant to be forgotten in the larger scheme of things.
And why, is this, in case of a sequel, a failing? Perhaps because some films are best left untouched once they have been made. Taken ended on a nice note and a film like that needs to— after all, you can’t over exploit a plot, for more than it’s worth. They did it with Crank and succeeded, they overdid it with Saw and they failed. With Taken, I can only hope that this is the last one. Any more of this, and I might be forced to go the reductive way of watching only those films that are given high rankings on Rotten Tomatoes.