Year Released: 2012
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Rade Sherbedgia
(PG-13, 91 min.)
“Mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent.” Adam Smith
Sometimes you’re in the mood for red meat. A lean slab of the stuff with no bone, fat or gristle. A high action thriller unfettered by such literary balderdash as nuance, character development, or purposeful ambiguity.
Taken 2 serves up this dish with Liam Neeson back in the role as ex CIA operative Bryan Mills tangling with the same ring of Eastern European sex traffickers he sent to their graves in the first edition. It seems he failed to kill off the whole clan, though, and the survivors back in Albania look down upon the six coffins he filled, vowing revenge.
What distinguishes this film from others not so well reviewed by Different Drummer is its clean focus and moral clarity. Quite a bit of this is owed to co writer Luc Benson, who married nonpareil action to conscious-driven purpose in his French parkour classic District B13.
Who can argue with a father saving his daughter from the sex trade? The other father (Rade Sherbedgia), the one seeking to avenge the deaths of his despicable sons in this sequel is not so much evil as he is obsessed, not a little unlike those Middle East jihadists who have been so busy recently burning down our embassies and killing our ambassador and assorted other Americans.
In fact, one of the funniest lines in the film, and I must admit this observation is from another critic, is when Mills tells his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) to go to the American embassy in Instanbul. “You’ll be safe there,” he tells her.
Except for this unintentional political irony, the film is, thank heaven, devoid of political statements. Yes, Mills is ex CIA, but he is neither disillusioned nor part of the ever present corruption depicted within the agency in the entire Jason Bourne franchise, a theme, by the way, invented entirely for the film series and not present in Ludlum’s 1980 novel. How refreshing, for once, that Hollywood has found some external enemies not more than half a century out of date, i.e., the Neo-Nazis who were substituted for the Arab terrorists when Clancy’s The Sum of all Fears was made into the politically correct 2002 film.
Taken 2 also has the now obligatory chase scene, this one distinguished by having Mills’ teenage daughter doing the driving through the crowded streets of Istanbul. Given that the film makes quite a bit about her having failed her driver’s test two times, we have some comic relief as she mows through the markets, creating mayhem on the cobbled streets. “I can’t do this,” she pleads to her dad.
“Can you shoot a gun?” he asks as he takes aims at the pursuers. Silence. “Then drive!” the command a short staccato that echoes the bullets rapidly discharging from his gun.
Another clever detail for action junkies is Mills’ unique way of leading Kim to the hideout where he is imprisoned. No bread crumbed path here. Instead Kim tosses a few grenades from her hotel window, while her dad counts the distance in seconds the way we all count the time between lightning and thunder to calculate how far off a storm is. At first he cautions her to throw it where she can avoid hurting anyone, and almost too easily Kim finds a concrete parking garage to lob her grenade. As she gets closer to the enemy lair, however, walking on a kind of sidewalk built atop the sea of clay tiles roofs, we have considerably less time for such civil compunctions, and the grenades fly with abandon. Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead.
Finally, thank goodness Mills' wife Lenore (Famke Janssen), newly estranged from her wealthy husband, shows none of the signs of coddled bitchiness we might expect when her three day family outing with her ex and daughter turns into an unmitigated disaster. She greets him with a welcome embrace when Mills frees her from chains, and accepts his early exit to save their daughter, even when he has to leave her temporarily behind.
Yes, American films have a preoccupation with blood and violence. At least this one also has an inner sense of right and wrong as well. Enjoy every piece of its deliciously undercooked red meat.
Taken 2 builds on the local color of Istanbul, from the 5 star polished elegance of Mills' hotel room, to the earth-baked reds of clay tile roofs where much of the action takes place. The street market and its crowded cobbled streets overflow with ripe fruits and the muted pastels of rice, nuts, and grains assembled in handmade straw baskets. That is, until Kim sends it all flying helter skelter as she dodges her armed pursuers in one crazy market chase scene.
Let’s pick up some of those spilled baskets and assemble something good to eat. This recipe reminds me of my Italian grandmother’s cooking, a little like her Giambotte, literally a “jumbled up” savory stew made from leftovers.
This Turkish salad is also made from leftovers, and it is flexible on the ingredients, just like the recipes of my mother and grandmother.
Enjoy. Afiyet olsun!
Excellent way to turn unexciting leftovers into a delightful salad
Serves: 2 (as a main dish or 4 as a starter)
5 tbsp boiled wheat berries (can be replaced with rice)
3 tbsp boiled green lentils
3 tbsp walnuts coarsely chopped
1 cup or tin of anchovy fillets
4 tbsp pomegranate seeds (or any sour berries)
1 medium size pickled cucumber
2 slices stale bread
2 tbsp dill finely chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
pinch freshly ground black pepper
Dice the bread and toast for a few minutes in on a hot frying pan greased with butter. You can also first toast bread in a toaster and then dice it.
On a separate frying pan cook anchovy or other small fish of choice in little butter. If you deal with large fish filet I suggest you blanch it: boil it in large quantity of water until the fish starts flaking. Then with your hands flake it into little chunks.
Combine the ingredients – I like doing it with my hands to feel the texture and give quality control to my chopping in case there are large lumps or chunks that need to be broken. Season with olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper