Saturday, October 6, 2012

Taken 2

“’Fruit Cart!’” – An expletive used by knowledgeable film buffs during any chase scene involving a foreign or ethnic locale, reflecting their certainty that a fruit cart will be overturned during the chase, and an angry peddler will run into the middle of the street to shake his fist at the hero’s departing vehicle.” – Roger Ebert, Ebert’s Bigger Little Movie Glossary

Not only is there an actual Fruit Cart! scene in “Taken 2,” you’ll find a bingo card’s worth of additional entries from Ebert’s Glossary in this laughably ludicrous compendium of clich├ęs. It’s not often that a favorably disposed audience takes to hooting at the movie they’ve come to see, but sometimes there’s no pretending not to notice the stench. And whatever goodwill Neeson has accrued, he’s squandered with this sell-out, the kind of unabashed insult to the audience’s intelligence you don’t see for decades at a time.

Take, for instance, a scene in which Liam Neeson’s teenage daughter (played by Maggie Grace, age 29) outdrives an entire gang of Albanian kidnappers through the streets of Istanbul in a stolen taxicab. The kicker? She’s failed her driving test – twice. Or how about the scene in which Neeson realizes he and his ex-wife (onetime beauty Famke Janssen) are about to be taken? In their last few seconds together, he gives her escape instructions so elaborate you’d have to be Rain Man to remember them.

Then there are the multiple scenes in which Neeson and Janssen plot their escape from the abandoned building in which they’ve been left hanging and handcuffed. Sometimes there’s a guard in the room; sometimes he must be on a cigarette break. Even when he’s there, though, he always seems to be polishing his gun or otherwise averting his gaze. These two could have planned D-Day ten feet from him and he’d be none the wiser.

But “Taken 2” saves its best laughs for last: the big confrontation between Neeson and Rade Sherbedgia as the father of the kidnapper Neeson killed in the first installment, so poorly choreographed it makes “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” look like Twyla Tharp. Neeson finally has the upper hand. His mortal enemy is looking down the barrel of his gun. What does Neeson propose? “If you give me your word that you’ll let me go, I’ll lay down my gun.” Say “Good night,” Gracie.

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