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The Movie Guy: “Taken 2″ and “The Tall Man”

By   /   October 8, 2012  /   Comments

Taken 2

There is something that is terrifyingly primal about the loss of a family member through a kidnapping and the original ‘Taken’ (out on DVD, and I’m sure running on FX even as I type this….) makes the best of the premise by having the daughter of a divorced couple taken by human traffickers hell-bent on selling her off to the highest bidder. The movie is rather infamous for Liam Neeson, who plays Bryan Mills, killing more people than the common cold to find his daughter.

Taken 2’ isn’t all that different than the original in premise as Mill’s trip to Istanbul is interrupted when his daughter and ex-wife show up and surprise him, things take a turn for the worst when the father (and boss…) of the villain from the original movie shows up with a group of disenfranchised Albanian youths to spoil the fun. Separated from his daughter and Ex-wife Mill’s soon discovers that his ex-wife Lenore has been taken and that the kidnappers are going to be coming for his daughter Kim as well. He manages to warn his daughter and she goes on the run avoiding the men chasing her as he works on finding his ex and recovering Kim while ensuring that they will all be safe from further reprisals.

The original ‘Taken’ wasn’t an original premise as the idea of a harrowing kidnapping and violent conflict resolution wasn’t anything original and had been done in numerous movies since the dawn of cinema. ‘Taken 2’ is unfortunately nothing more than a rehash of the original movie, in a different city with the ex-wife now being in danger as well. In terms of acting, Liam Neeson (who has starred in the most recent Batman movies, Darkman and of course Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.) does his best to carry the film despite it falling apart under the weight of what I like to refer to as the ‘Diehard 2 principal’. For the uneducated the ‘Diehard 2 principal’ says that the same thing must happen to the same character, only twice.

Maggie Grace as Kim Mills gets a slightly better gig in this movie than she did in the original, which when I initially saw the movie back in 2008 I thought she was playing a much younger character (13-14) but as it turned out she was supposed to be older, a very immature and childlike 17 year old who gets way to excited about her birthday party and a pony? At least this time around she is given something to do other than act like a very young teenager and looked drugged out of her mind.

Famke Janssen (Goldeneye, FX’s Nip/Tuck, and the X-Men movies) reprises her role of Mill’s ex-wife Lenore and manages to make the best of the role despite it being a very typical part in action films and the reason that Bonnie Bedelia left the Diehard movies after the second one.

If you are looking hidden meaning and some sort of depth, I’d advise looking elsewhere. On the other hand if you want a typical action flick where the bullets fly and the bodies stack up like cord wood then this is the movie for you!

2 Stars out of 5.

 

The Tall Man (DVD)

I have a real dislike for modern day horror films. They lost their way a long time ago; the idea of scaring people has gone to the wayside and has been supplanted by buckets of blood and body parts. When you look back on the classics, they kept it simple with atmosphere, music and menacing figures that loomed in the shadows waiting to inflict grievous bodily harm on unsuspecting victims. Way back when, we had ‘Halloween’, ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ and ‘Friday the 13th’, these days we have remakes and re-envisioned movies treading on classic horror films by adding buckets of gore.

I had high hopes for The Tall Man, because the ads on the television make this movie look dark and spooky. The perfect sort of movie to curl up on the couch with a bucket of popcorn and your favorite someone in the dark. Instead this is a movie where there is no supernatural beast, just a series of lies told to various characters throughout the movie. The movie opens with the premise that there is a small rural mining town that is nestled in north Washington State and has been plagued by a series of kidnappings. Jessica Biel (Having acted in the remake of‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’, ‘Blade Trinity’ and ‘the A-Team’) plays a local nurse and widowed wife of a deceased doctor, we see her engaging in random acts of kindness such as delivering a baby and offering coffee to seemingly crazy local homeless woman. What comes out as the movie unfolds is that she isn’t some helpless mother trying to recover her child, but instead the kidnapper that the town has grown to fear. As it turns out she is also part of a vast global conspiracy that kidnaps children from terrible family lives and gives them to new loving families.

So we’ve come to a place in our society now where we get movies that make human traffickers into heroes? That’s essentially what this movie is about; the idea was similarly explored in Dennis Lehane’s ‘Gone, Baby Gone’. This seems to be a popular notion in entertainment these days; that it might be okay to forcibly remove a child from a home vigilante style and deposit them where ever we see fit.

The worst part about this movie is the underlying themes of class separation and war that go on. The traffickers don’t just take the children from their families; they take them from low-income families in rural settings and give them to wealthy families in the ‘big cities’, I guess I’m supposed to feel better about the fact that the traffickers go out of their way to turn down the money offered to them as it would be ‘An insult to the two women who sacrificed everything for the cause….’

The character is referring to Jessica Biel who goes to prison, because she is believed to have kidnapped and killed numerous children (they got part of it right….) and her sidekick who rather than face an interrogation or prison time somehow manages to get enough alone time in a house full of federal agents and police to hang herself in a wardrobe. The death of the sidekick happens in such a way that we hear the sound of her committing suicide (the slumping of the body) before being shown briefly what happened and no one in the scene reacts to the fact that a woman has just killed herself. I think that the audience was supposed to be shocked by this turn of events; truthfully I was more shocked by the complete lack of reaction of everyone in the scene including the law-enforcement who seemed more like ‘Dead kids, check. Secret tunnels, check. Dead sidekick in the closet, check.’ I’ve just realized as I sit here typing this review that this entire movie could be undone by a cadaver dog being taken into these ‘miles and miles’ of mining tunnels and not hitting on a mass grave.

I actually had a friend argue with me about other similar movies, siding with the kidnappers over the grieving mothers saying that someone should have taken the children, the friend in question is a mother of two…. I’m assuming that the movie was supposed to elicit frank talk about how someone should step in and take care of the children, but we have systems in place for such things. Whether the system works or not isn’t really something I can elaborate on, I’m sure that cases can be made both for and against it. I guess that this is a hot topic for some people, but not for me since we’re talking about untrained people taking children from homes without any sort of official adjudication and depositing them wherever they see fit. The world can be a dark place and putting these sorts of people up on a pedestal as some sort of heroic figure is horrible and makes for a terrible movie.

In the end, don’t bother with wasting your time or money on this movie; I did it for you….

0 Stars out of 5.

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