I have not actually watched Taken 2, which is the sequel to Taken and which has basically the same plot (as sequels must): Liam Neeson is a retired intelligence/black ops badass just trying to reconnect with his family who gets kidnapped by enemies and forced to break out his murder skills in order to save himself and his daughter and wife from the clutches of evil non-Americans. As a sort of subtly jingoistic “American Murder Skills ROCK!” kind of story, the original was entertaining mainly because Neeson is an unlikely but effective action hero: He’s big in a loose-limbed way but also conveys intelligence, allowing me to believe that he’s a man who knows what he’s about when it comes to instantly analyzing a room full of toughs for the best way to American Murder them all. It helps that the setting allows Neeson to always be swathed in voluminous sweaters that can hide the fact that he doesn’t have a Van Damme sort of body.
I’ve seen snatches of Taken 2 on cable these past few weeks, and I was struck not by the badassery of 60-year old Liam Neeson or the cynical way the sequel repeats the basic premise of the first film, but by how Maggie Grace runs, especially in this scene:
This clip doesn’t really give you the best view of it, but trust me: In this scene Maggie Grace is supposedly a 20-something girl in good shape who is running for her life. And Maggie Grace runs like she has an invisible bear riding on her shoulders, or like she’s secretly a 909-year old woman with two hip replacements. The complete lack of urgency and believability in the way she runs in this sequence is simply shocking: Whatever thin verisimilitude the movie had built up to this point was destroyed by the fact that the bad guys could have played a game of gin rummy while Maggie huffed and puffed her way across the rooftops and still managed to catch her. Probably as she carefully and slowwwwlllly made her way over a low wall of some sort.
Seriously, it’s like watching a training montage from an old Police Academy movie.
Now, I can accept the fact that Maggie Grace was hired for her looks rather than her athletic (or acting) skills. In the first film, where all she had to do was play “on heroin” and “in lingerie” that worked just fine. But running? Man, a few million bucks in CGI would not have been wasted in making her look like she had ever run before in her life. Like, ever.
Or, you know, go old school: Stunt double. No shame – well, yes, there is some shame in this, but it still would have helped the scenes tremendously. Because Maggie Grace runs like she is a much larger person that we just can’t see, like Jack Black looking at Gwyneth Paltrow in Shallow Hal.