Taken 2 (2012)


Listen to Me Carefully, Kim.  Your Mother is Going to be Taken.

Taken 2 (2012)It’s been a while since I was last inspired by a RedBox.  You’ll eventually come to find that the two movies I picked on this day were not inspired, but were picked with a shrug.  And that hurts me to admit about today’s movie.  This movie’s predecessor was the tits.  It smacked you in the face with its penis and downright dared you not to like it, but you still could not. At least I could not.  I loved the first movie so much that I instantly became excited when I saw that IMDb said they were making a sequel when I was writing the review for the first movie.  But then doubt began to sink in.  What if this was just a money grab?  This was a dangerous situation, and one that demanded caution on my part.  So I gave it some time after it came out, only to find that fans and critics alike did not seem to be enjoying the sequel.  In despair, I waited until the movie finally found its way to a RedBox before I was willing to give it a shot.  This movie is Taken 2, written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, directed by Olivier Megaton, and starring Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Rade Šerbedžija (one of few names I’ve had to copy and paste to spell correctly), Leland Orser, Jon Gries, D.B. Sweeney, Luke Grimes, and Kevork Malikyan.

After the events of the first movie, the Albanian mob find themselves a little sore over how many people Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) awesomed all over.  They set their mind on taking revenge, but ONLY if coincidence brings him and his family onto their continent.  Thankfully for the mob leader Murad (Rade Šerbedžija), Bryan is going to Istanbul on a short assignment and he’s invited his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) and their daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) out for a vacation.  Oh man!  Someone is about to get taken up in this piece!  Hell, maybe two!  …Oh yeah, there’s also some shit about Kim failing her driver’s test, and also she has a boyfriend that Bryan doesn’t like.  That is probably also as crucial to the story as the taken stuff.

What Olivier did to the Taken series really was like dropping a 10 Megaton bomb on it.  I winced when I thought of that.  Then I decided to share it with you.  This movie was disappointing.  It didn’t manage to capture a sliver of the awesomeness of its predecessor.  It tried to compare itself to the original by not really changing the story at all, and did the dumbest version of amping it up I’ve seen in a while.  The story for the first movie was never that complex, but you can’t just say, “This time, TWO people get taken.  That’s why we named the movie Taken TWO!  We are the most clever mother fuckers that ever were!”  But at least the first movie knew to take their simple story and slap some awesome on it to overcome their problems.  In this movie, the dumb daughter is saving Liam?  Fuck that!  Liam does the saving in this family!  They also really seemed exhausted by the possibility of writing dialogue in this movie.  They’d get started strong and then fall asleep before the sentence ended.  Like when Kim was talking to Bryan about what Lenore said about when they met.  She said, “When you met, it was … super special.”  That line was super special.  That’s like fuckin’ poetry.  Emily fuckin’ Dickinson over here!  …Is that a poet?  The biggest problem I had with the movie was, sadly, the premise for the entire movie.  The villain’s motivation made no sense, but it’s also something you see a lot in action movies.  Obviously, if you kill a mobster’s son, he’s coming after you.  That seems logical.  But where’s the logical side of his brain when it comes to the reason this guy killed his son?  He killed your son because your son was going to sell his daughter into the sex slavery trade.  If I had a kid and he was killed trying to do something horrible to someone, I’d say, “Well, that’ll happen.  Now no one will know what a shitty job I did raising the boy.”  I guess that wouldn’t have made for a very interesting movie, and they even point out that break in logic in the movie, but the mobster is having none of that.

The action of the movie was okay, but I never really felt that thrilled about it.  I didn’t even like looking at most of the movie.  For some reason, they decided that the only proper way to display this movie to us was to crank the saturation of it up to 11.  I don’t remember the first movie being so ugly that I didn’t want to even look at it.  They did a few vaguely clever things in the movie – such as Bryan telling Kim to set off grenades so that he could count how long it took for the sound to reach him – but they also did some dumb things.  I know that Movie Making 101 says that when someone hangs up a phone, the other person hears the dial tone so that they can stare at the phone and look morose.  But this is the smartphone generation and iPhones don’t do that.  The fisticuffs in the movie didn’t happen nearly often enough for my liking, but when they did they were mostly fine.  The last fight was the one that caused the most problems for me, but mainly just because I didn’t know how Bryan ended it.  He was fighting what was basically the Albanian version of him, and they were going punch for punch for the majority of the fight, but then Bryan dropped him on his back and slid him down into a seated position.  Did he just knock the wind out of him so well that he never got it back?  ‘Cause that dude was dead from something the Three Stooges used to do every day.  If you want to say that Bryan slammed the dude down on the corner and broke his neck or something, then I’m going to have to ask you to show your work.  Did you learn nothing from math class?

The cast in this movie did a fine enough job, but most of the characters got on my nerves.  Maggie Grace as the daughter most of all.  First of all, her memory is super short term.  Right in the beginning of this movie, she gets all pissy with Liam because he interrupts her boyfriend trying to get to second base with her.  Have you already forgotten that he also interrupted a Sheik making you the Thursday wife in his harem?  I think he’s got a bit of a head start on you ever getting angry at him again for his fatherly duties.  I also felt like she brought a lot of the stuff to the movie that I felt was wasted space, such as her driving test stuff and the stuff about her boyfriend.  Also, at the end when you have your boyfriend come have a milkshake with the family, the line, “Don’t shoot this one,” was maybe in poor taste.  Liam might take it poorly because his daughter thinks he’s a mindless killer, and the boyfriend probably wants to keep the fact that Liam will literally kill the shit out of him out of his mind for as long as possible.  Liam brought as much awesome as he could to the movie, but there really wasn’t much he could do to salvage it.  I did think that a good father and driving instructor would have told his daughter good job on outrunning that train, but that she should never do that again.  Famke had a pretty easy job on this movie because about halfway in she got really drowsy and spent the rest of the movie half asleep.  But the worst performances in this movie were definitely the Albanian mobsters.  They’re trying to sneak up on the ex-CIA guy that killed the shit out of all their buddies, but their idea of incognito is to be the only people in all of Istanbul wearing track suits like they were a uniform.

Taken 2 was not a good movie, but I’m still excited for the possibility of a Taken 3.  Taken was awesome enough to give them a third chance.  The story was the story from Taken, amped up in the most unimaginative way it could be, and it didn’t even have good enough action to counter-balance that.  You could say that the first movie set the bar too high, but I feel like this movie would’ve sucked with or without the comparison.  There’s no good reason to watch this movie.  Taken 2 gets “Hey Dad, please don’t shoot this one” out of “When a dog has a bone, the last thing you want to do is take it from him.”

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The Rundown (2003)


I’d Offer You a Beer, But It Seems You Blew Up My Bar.

The first day of my challenge leading up to my birthday gets things kicked off with a bang.  I’ve picked my favorite movie in the action genre.  There are a few things I’d like to make clear when it comes to these selections.  First, I’m not saying that today’s movie is the hands down best action movie ever made.  I’m saying it’s my favorite.  It’s my birthday and I’ll review what I want to!  Second, it also had to be a movie that I haven’t already reviewed because it wouldn’t really count as one a day if I just copied and pasted a previous review.  And third, I didn’t want them to cross categories.  Also, I kind of just looked through my DVD’s and grabbed any candidates that occurred to me.  So yeah, I may have forgotten about movies like Terminator 2 and Predator, but I’m comfortable with the decision I made.  Like I said before, it’s not necessarily the best action movie, but certainly a favorite of mine.  And so, I bring you my review of The Rundown, written by James Vanderbilt and R.J. Stewart, directed by Peter Berg, and starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Seann William Scott, Christopher Walken, Rosario Dawson, William Lucking, Ewen Bremner, Ernie Reyes Jr., and Jon Gries.

Beck (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is a retrieval expert who is pretty damned good at what he does, even though he’s not that into his profession.  He only does it to pay off a debt that he owes his boss, Billy Walker (William Lucking) and to get enough money to open his own restaurant.  Billy offers Beck one more job to clear his debt and earn enough money to achieve his goal.  That job: go to South America and retrieve Billy’s son, Travis (Seann William Scott), who is down there searching for a golden artifact called “el Gato Diablo”.  Beck catches a ride with an eccentric pilot named Declan (Ewen Bremner) and starts his search.  Beck’s even kind enough to pay a visit (and a lot of money) to the corrupt de facto owner of the town, Cornelius Bernard Hatcher (Christopher Walken), to make sure he’s not stepping on any toes.  He finds Travis at a bar owned by Mariana (Rosario Dawson), but he also finds trouble when Hatcher decides that Travis was close to finding the Gato and he no longer feels like Beck should take him.

I guess this contest is not going to be bringing any surprises when it comes to my opinion, so the fun will have to lie in the justification.  I love this movie.  I will grant the conceit that things in this movie have been done before, and the movie also seems disinterested in surprising you along the way.  What it wants is fun, and it delivers that throughout.  But, as always, we’ll focus on story first.  The basic idea of the story is a combination of various things that have been done many times in the past.  It’s a bounty hunter movie, it’s a rebellion against oppressive forces movie, it’s a buddy picture, and it’s even kind of a love story that they start and don’t finish.  In fact, the greater majority of the buddy picture parts of this movie seemed straight out of my dim recollection of the Damon Wayans/Adam Sandler movie Bulletproof; a movie that I kind of want to watch now that I’ve thought about it.  But that will have to wait until after the contest is finished.  But we already know that it’s the journey and not the destination, and the journey is very well done.  Loads of good action, great scenery to put around it, and some clever dialogue to boot.  When Beck was talking to his boss in the beginning about not wanting to get the money from the starting lineup of a football team, not because he’s worried about injury for himself but because he’s worried that he’ll hurt them and “they have a good chance of repeating”, it’s funny and lets us know that this guy is a badass.  A good amount of the funny that came from Travis seemed like it was improvised.  Seann William Scott talked a lot, but a decent enough portion was funny.  Calling Beck “Wolfgang Stuck” amused me.  I also liked when he played the rebels against Beck.  The baboons humping Beck’s face was a little low-brow, but that’s not to say I didn’t think it was funny.  I felt like they could’ve tried harder with the rebels.  They seemed to try to rush us to caring about them with a quick conversation and the handing over of a necklace, but we didn’t have enough time to get to know them to actually care about what would happen to them.

I loved the action in this movie.  On occasion, I’d say I’ve had my fill of shootouts in movies.  They’re usually not that visually interesting.  I get the feeling that Peter Berg agrees with me to some degree because he made his main character refuse to use guns.  People would pull guns, but he’d quickly disarm them and get to the beatings.  And who would’ve known that a fight with “Get Your Freak On” by Missy Elliot playing in the background would work?  Not me before this movie did it, I’ll tell you that much.  But Beck was so against using guns that he found other creative ways to use guns.  The one I liked the most was when he tripped Travis by popping the clip out of the gun, causing it to slide across the floor and underneath his foot, causing him to fall on his ass.  There are also two possible outcomes to your main character having an aversion to guns.  The first one is that he’ll have a sappy, mopey story about how a gun killed his wife or some shit, and the second is that he’ll pick up guns and be epic with them.  Thankfully, they chose the latter.  We know it’s coming, but he uses those guns in such awesome and creative ways – ways I’ve never seen guns used before or after – that I don’t give a damn.  Some of the things that Beck does in the movie border on superhuman, but I actually believe it from the Rock.

I loved every single performance in this movie.  For someone with a less than admirable job, the Rock always came off as extra charming. This first occurred to me when he was accidentally getting the autograph from the quarterback in the beginning of the movie.  He had such happiness on his face, like a child getting an autograph from Mickey Mouse.  He doesn’t keep that innocence for long because it quickly becomes time to beat some ass.  For some reason, the Rock is really good at fake fighting.  I can’t figure it out.  Probably just a natural gift.  Seann William Scott was playing a lot more for comedy.  He wasn’t always funny, maybe landing on about 70% of the random things he said, but he was still good.  What helped it more was that he and the Rock had a great chemistry that made all of their parts together that much better.  Christopher Walken is fantastic in this movie.  He’s definitely funny, especially coming from someone who knew he was watching a movie and that this character wasn’t real.  But, even though he was funny, I get the feeling that I wouldn’t want to be anywhere around that character if he was real.  He pulled off intimidation very well.  But it’s Christopher Walken.  What do you expect?  I get the feeling that Rosario Dawson wasn’t really trying to be sexy at all in this movie.  Thankfully, she has no say in the matter.  You’re gonna be sexy and you’re gonna like it, missy!  She also had a great character.  She was also very charming and certainly no damsel in distress.  Ewen Bremner was the comic relief character and you know what I generally say about comic relief people: only this guy has done it without annoying me that I can presently think of.  His big joke was mainly his super thick accent, but he worked it well.

I love the Rundown and I don’t care who knows it.  This is one of the best, and most fun, action movies that I can think of.  The story is basic, unsurprising, and it’s been done before, but some great writing, fantastic action, and outstanding performances elevate it to be one of my favorite action movies ever.  Of course you should watch this movie!  You should own this movie!  And you should fuck yourself if you disagree with me.  The Rundown gets “Establish dominance!  Establish dominance!” out of “Have fun.”

Congratulations goes to my friend Eric for being the one who finally guessed the movie.  And a special shout out goes to Chris and Fabio for trying so hard.

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Taken (2008)


I Told You So!: The Movie

After the last three movies, I didn’t feel like I needed to clean my brain with a good movie, or a meaningful movie.  I needed to clean my brain with an awesome movie.  I had originally seen today’s movie in the theaters, knowing nothing about it and expecting nothing out of it.  Later, when it came out on DVD, I bought that shit post haste.  I’ve seen it a few times since then, but I have not reviewed it yet.  And I had a hankering for this movie for a little while now so I figured now was the best time to sate my need for it, and knock a review out while I’m at it.  This movie is Taken, written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, directed by Pierre Morel, and starring Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Xander Berkeley, Nicolas Giraud, Arben Bajraktaraj, Gerard Watkins, Olivier Rabourdin, Leland Orser, Jon Gries, David Warshofsky, Katie Cassidy, and Holly Valance.

Retired CIA agent Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is trying to build a better relationship with his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), but it’s made into an uphill battle by her bitch ass mom, Lenore (Famke Janssen), and her rich, one-upping stepfather Stuart (Xander Berkeley).  Knowing that Kim wants to be a singer, he gets her a karaoke machine for her birthday, and tries to get her in with pop singer Sheerah (Holly Valance) while on a job with his former colleague Sam (Leland Orser), but she shuts him down.  Well, she does until Bryan saves her life with extreme prejudice from a knife-wielding assailant.  She responds by offering to pay for a singing coach for Kim and get her in touch with an agent.  Bryan goes to lunch to present Kim with this good news, but Kim and Lenore confront Bryan with Kim’s desire to go to Paris with her friend, Amanda (Katie Cassidy), to look at some museums.  Bryan’s hesitant, knowing what kinds of dangers face young girls on their own overseas, but they lay the guilt trip on him so thick that he relents and allows her to go, as long as she keeps him up to speed with what’s happening.  When she gets to France, she meets a nice boy named Peter (Nicolas Giraud) who invites her and Amanda to a party, but changes his mind and tells the Albanian Mafia to come and abduct them and turn them into prostitutes.  Kim watches it go down from a window while talking to her dad, and he leads her through the situation, but tells her she will be taken.  But Bryan has a particular set of skills that means a lot of people are going to get injured until he finds his daughter.

This movie is the tits.  The big fat floppy tits!  This movie might not be the smartest movie I’ve ever watched, but it would arguably be one of the most awesome.  The story of the movie is nothing special, but it’s still very satisfying.  The story is a pretty simple situation of someone being abducted and someone going to rescue her, with a little bit of the classic coming out of retirement story in there.  I found some of the dialogue in the movie blunt and unimpressive, like the scene at the barbecue and the scene where Bryan is playing poker with his former colleagues.  These scenes are very obvious exposition scenes, with them saying things along the lines of, “Remember that time when we were in the CIA and you were really good and I’d hate to be someone that kidnapped your daughter.  Remember that, buddy?”  Exposition can be painful to listen to, especially when it’s largely unnecessary because it happens right before the scene of Bryan laying a cold ass-whooping on the guy with the knife that tries to Selena that Sheerah lady.  That’s all I needed to decide this guy was a badass with skills.  That AND the fact that he wraps presents like a champ.  And I felt the biggest piece of dialogue was never used in the movie.  After Lenore had been such a dirty bitch to Bryan the whole movie and acted like he was being an asshole for thinking it was too dangerous for Kim to go to Paris without him, Bryan completely neglected to lay a nice, thick “I told you so” onto the lot of them when he was totally right about the whole thing.  Granted, he would’ve just been an asshole if she had gone and nothing had happened, but he was right, and I would’ve punched her bitch ass vagina clean off!  I feel the same way about the part where Kim is under the bed and he tells her she’s going to be taken.  At first, the bad guys seemed completely unaware that she was there.  I figured that she’d be pretty pissed if they left without her and he had seemed so quickly resigned to the fact that she’d be taken.  It would’ve been a fairly lackluster movie if that had happened though.  If you want some examples of good dialogue, it immediately follows that, when Bryan talks to the kidnapper Marco on the phone.  That speech goes down as one of the most badass speeches ever as Bryan tells Marco basically, “I’m a badass, you don’t want to fuck with me, and I’ll show you why if you don’t let her go.  …But don’t let her go, because the movie would be really short and not awesome if you don’t make me show off my badassness.”   At that point, we had already learned enough to think, “You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into!”  The speech he gives when he does find Marco is pretty good as well.

There was really nothing left to be desired from the action in this movie.  I found it all very satisfying.  They had great gun fights, hardcore hand-to-hand combat, and even some cool car chases.  I’ve always liked the form of fighting that they use in this movie.  It reminds me of the Bourne movies.  I’m not sure if it’s technically Krav Maga, but it looked like it.  It’s just a no nonsense, no frills type of fighting that makes your opponent unable to be in your way anymore.  It comes down to a lot of neck/back breaking and throat punching, and all of it’s good times for me.  ::SPOILER ALERT::  At the end of the movie, he has to fight this skinny, douchey-looking guard to a sheik.  It bummed me out because he was able to hold his own against Bryan who had, up to this point, not met anyone he couldn’t destroy in a couple of moves.  Though I didn’t like seeing my man challenged by this guy, it made sense for him to have a challenging fight at the end of the movie, and the ass-whipping he laid upon him was very satisfying.  I was also surprised at how his daughter reacted to him shooting the sheik because she seemed shocked by it, whereas I would’ve yelled, “Dad!  You is the fuckin’ tits!”  And, at the very end of the movie, I was surprised to see Lenore thanking Bryan for saving their daughter.  With how much of a bitch she was through the rest of the movie, I would’ve figured she’d say, “Oh what?  You could only save ONE of them?  This is so typical, Bryan!”  I know the last two don’t really fit with the action paragraph, but I wanted to keep my spoilers together.  ::END SPOILERS::   The car chases were pretty standard stuff, and car chases have never really held a lot of interest for me.  What I did like from the first one was how the car ran full speed into a bulldozer’s blade, cutting halfway into the top of the car like it was butter.

All of the performances in this movie really worked as well.  There wasn’t a point in the movie where Liam Neeson really had to get emotional, but that actually works as a good thing for this movie.  We already know he can act; he doesn’t need to show off.  But having his emotions so under control under circumstances where most people would be freaking out makes him that much more of a badass.  My favorite bit of badassness was when he shot a guy’s wife out of nowhere.  LIKE A BOSS!  You’ll know it when you see it, but it was so stone cold badass that I would’ve offered my anal virginity to the guy as a sacrifice.  Maggie Grace had to do a lot of damsel in distress work in the movie.  I couldn’t decide if her character was believable or not because 17-year-old girls only like U2 because they want to seem smart and they haven’t found better music yet.  And people that like U2 don’t also like pop stars like this Sheerah.  I definitely hate-fucked the shit out of Famke Janssen’s character in this movie, but that was what she was going for.  I know some divorced people are like that, but you bitches can at least act like you’re being civil in front of your kid at her birthday party.  And yes, I blame her completely.  I thought Arben Bajraktaraj was cool as the short-lived character Marko, but mainly just because I was really convinced by him as he was being tortured.  In no small part due to the veins in his neck looking like they were going to explode.  And I thought Leland Orser was cool, but mainly because every time I see him I think of him either crying because he fucked a girl to death with a sword dildo in Seven, or crying because there was an alien in him in Alien: Resurrection.

Taken is one of the best movies to just shut your brain off and enjoy.  It’s not a dumb movie, per se, but the story is pretty basic and the dialogue is either nothing special or wicked awesome.  Liam Neeson and the action scenes make this movie a fantastic action flick.  This movie is total fun times that should be enjoyed by anyone.  And you should go and enjoy it right now.  I have it on DVD, I SHOULD have it on BluRay, and you should have it in some form or another.  Taken gets “I have a particular set of skills” out of “Now’s not the time for dick measuring, Stuart!”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.