“Less fun and less memorable than it’s predecessor”
It’s safe to say that when an accomplished actor like Liam Neeson stares deep in your eyes, unarmed and delivers a mellow yet polite threat against your life, even the most hardened powerful criminal would tremble in fear. That’s certainly the case here as CIA agent Brian Mills (Neeson) takes time out with a visit to Istanbul whilst unknowingly being tracked by the criminal underworld. But when his wife Lenore (Famke Jansen) and daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) make a surprise visit, they instantly become the target of the Eastern Europe henchmen, headed by the father of one of Neeson’s previous kills, seeking revenge for his son’s death.
To say we get the soppy, winking-at-the-camera performances from our heroic trio would be an understatement. None more so than Liam Neeson who does the whole overly protective father and crafty veteran performance, but he only really gets interesting once the bullets are flying and heads are smacking. The mother and daughter relationship is done well to a certain extent but it did feel this time round that due to the success of the first film, it felt more of an obligation for them to be there. Disappointing in that sense that the emotional ties weren’t present this time round, given the whole story aspect needing to involve these two anyway.
In the film’s defence, the set pieces are pretty well done. You do feel the punches and kicks, along with the threat of descending into the murky underworld are plausible. Somehow the labyrinth streets of Istanbul is this perfect setting with the sense of being lost and that panic of wanting to escape from the maze structures. Culminating at one point, in a quite nailed down car chase, with its frenetic energy and constant on the move approach is certainly better than many big budget car chases we’ve seen in recent years.
But that sense of threat was more present in the first film. Touching on a subject of human trafficking and being left in awe of a thriller approaching such a touchy subject was its great acheivement. The threat levels just felt more cranked down second time around, despite the audience spending more time with the family relationship as a whole. But you have to hold your hands up and say it’s a stripped down, no frills, ninety minute action romp that gets in, does the job, and gets out whilst giving you exactly what you’d expect. Not to mention it’s directed by the team behind action shooters such as Transporter 3 and Colombiana, so to say it should be trying harder in the emotional department wont come as a huge surprise.
It’s plot holes or somewhat sewn up better than the first film. It seemed they simply had to produce a sequel given the audience reaction, but it’s less fun and less memorable than it’s predecessor. There are elements that are workable, but in saying that, this will leave it very hard for there to be another, and so maybe it’s time for our roughed up hero Neeson and it’s makers to put away the leather jacket and clever puns for good.