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Are “Taken 2” and “Looper” Worth Your Time?

October 6, 2012

I’m not gonna lie to you: I didn’t have the easiest week. So on Friday night, I figured I’d escape into a double-feature of action movies: Taken 2 and Looper. This is how I deal with stress—I go to movies. Hey, it’s cheaper than therapy. Although not by much, given Manhattan prices ($17 to see Taken 2 in something called “ETX,” which means they crank the volume to 11). 

I saw Taken 2 first, and I’m glad I did, because I was still unwinding from the week, and this movie requires no actual thought. The plot is simple, and essentially the same as the first one: Bad guys are trying to kill Liam Neeson and his family. Liam Neeson doesn’t want them to do that, so he kills them. What’s not to like?

This time, the action takes place in Istanbul, where Neeson takes his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) and daughter (Maggie Grace, who at 29 is way too old to be playing a girl who doesn’t have a driver’s license and is only on her first boyfriend). Why he takes them there when he’s paranoid about letting his daughter out of his sight after she got kidnapped in Paris the first time isn’t entirely clear, nor does it really matter. Not once Neeson starts snapping Albanian villains’ necks and running over fruit carts.

The film is directed by Olivier Megaton, who’s aptly named considering his heavy hand. But the premise is irresistible, and Neeson lends it a gravitas far beyond what it deserves. (It doesn’t hurt that he seems to channel some of his real-life pain from losing wife Natasha Richardson to his roles as fiercely loyal family men in films like this one and the vastly superior and underrated The Grey.) So the bottom line is: If you see this movie, you won’t feel Taken. At least if you don’t pay $17, you won’t.

Looper gives you a bit more than your money’s worth as well. I went in with low expectations, as I’m not a big sci-fi/time travel guy, and my distaste for Joseph Gordon-Levitt is well-documented. And while I was distracted by the unnecessary prosthetic attempts to make JGL look like Bruce Willis—who plays an older version of the same character, who’s been sent back in time for the younger JGL to kill (don’t ask)—I enjoyed the movie much more than I ever thought I would.

I’ll confess I didn’t totally follow the time-travel elements; I tried not to think about them too much, for fear of giving myself a headache. But writer-director Rian Johnson spends at least as much time on character development as he does on FX, and there are fine performances to be savored from Willis, Paul Dano and Emily Blunt, who’s much better here than in another sci-fi headscratcher, The Adjustment Bureau.

And I’ll give Gordon-Levitt a little credit (for once): He does a good job of capturing Willis’ mannerisms, even though he’s saddled with strangely caterpillar-like eyebrows. So it all depends on what you’re looking for. If you want to check your brains at the door, see Taken 2. And if you want to spend two hours with your eyebrows furrowed, circle back to Looper. But bring along a couple of Advil, just in case.

What’s your preference this moviegoing weekend? Post a comment!

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8 Comments
  1. Teme permalink

    What did you think of “The Lookout”? That movie made me a JGL believer. (What a script by Scott Frank, too. Until I saw it, I thought only Billy Wilder had the ability to channel characters like that.) I don’t even usually like heist movies, but it was the best portrayal of adult (well, high school)-onset disability I’ve ever seen. One of the most underrated movies of all time.

    • bruceafretts permalink

      Haven’t seen it, but I’ve been meaning to check it out, thanks!

  2. Ward Louise permalink

    “Taken 2” is really, really goofy — it’s even goofier because it thinks it’s about the futility of vengeance — but Liam Neeson almost makes you buy it.:

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