Monday, October 8, 2012

Movie: Taken 2

a/k/a The Scary Muslims Are Coming to Rape Your Wives and Daughters

Okay. *takes a deep breath* I actually waited until today to write this in the hopes that it would be less ranty. Let's see if that worked.

Taken 2 is a sequel to Taken. Please, all of you, control your shock. :p My point is, to understand what happens in this movie you need to be at least a little familiar with the first one. Not a whole lot, it's not a complicated plot by any means. But I'm going to just give you a really brief summary.

In Taken, Liam Neeson plays Bryan Mills an ex-CIA operative who is trying to reestablish a relationship with his teenage daughter Kim and his ex-wife Lenore. Lenore and Kim guilt him into signing off on papers to allow Kim to travel to Paris for a vacation (she's underage and so needs both parents' consent) against his better judgment. After being in Paris for about two seconds Kim and her friend Amanda are both kidnapped by a human trafficking ring. She just happens to be on the phone with her father who uses the information he records from the call to begin tracking Kim's abductors down. The rest of the movie is basically Liam Neeson being a badass and killing something like 50 guys with a dull, rusty spoon.

I make no apologies for my junk-food-movie tastes, okay? It's Liam Neeson kicking ass. You'd hit that too, don't lie.

In the end Mills gets Kim back and is on his way to having a better relationship with her and Lenore. No real need for a sequel in my mind, but I'm not the one running this show.

Which brings us to Taken 2. Within a year, maybe two of the ending of the first movie, Lenore is separated from her husband (she'd remarried after divorcing Mills) and Bryan is teaching Kim how to drive. Kim, for her part, has a boyfriend and is trying to be just a normal teenage girl.

Trying to reconnect with one another, Lenore and Kim arrange to meet Bryan in Istanbul after Lenore's second husband cancels a trip to China that the three of them were supposed to go on to let Lenore and Stuart (husband #2) work things out. Because the first thing I would want to do after being abducted, drugged, having my friend sold to a brothel and die of an overdose, and then being sold myself is to go to another foreign country. But I digress.

Of course while they're in Turkey the family of one of the men that Bryan killed comes seeking revenge. And there follows much ass kicking through the streets of Istanbul.

So that's the two movies. Got it? Any questions, refer to the links above. The wiki pages have a slightly more detailed synopsis.

Now, on to the things that made me mad.

In the first movie there's a human trafficking ring at work. The men who do the initial kidnapping are identified as Albanian mobsters but there are also Frenchmen and presumably other nationalities and races involved though they are never named outright.

Come to the beginning of the second movie and the dead Albanians are definitively identified as being Muslim, or at least coming from Muslim families. Prior to this I would put the percentage of people who thought about the criminals' religion at *maybe* 1% and the percentage of people who could identify Albania as a Muslim majority country at about the same rate. It wasn't about them, after all, except in the sense that they were bad, terrible people. Their bodies are 'claimed' at the airport, and by 'claimed' I mean taken at gun point which makes *no sense* at all to me, why couldn't they claim them legally? and driven to their home town of Tropoje for burial. Even if you didn't know enough to recognize that a) the man officiating at the funeral is an imam or b) that Al-Fatiha is a surah from the Qur'an, the film makers make sure that you know they're Muslim by including women in hijab weeping at the graves.

Fine. Even though these were terrible men, they had families. The families would mourn. Okay. I'm not sure why we needed to include the prayers right before we have the father of one of the men vowing revenge over his son's grave though. The scene, with the father vowing revenge, would have worked just as well cutting out all the prayers and just having the families standing around the graves, maybe a long shot down into the open graves so that we can see the coffins/sheet wound bodies (whatever you want to go with) and then the father vowing revenge and dropping his handful of dirt down onto his sons body.

So okay, we've now unnecessarily established the villains of the movie as Muslims seeking vengeance. so *shocked* by this. Because the media portrayal of Muslims is usually so friendly and cuddly.

Now we move the action to Turkey. Why Turkey? I don't, honestly, know. Mills is there doing some work (he does private bodyguarding jobs now that he's ex-CIA) and Lenore and Kim join him there. But *why* Turkey? Is it especially close to Albania, where this crime family is from?

Albania is the blue-green country to the right of Italy's heel, touching Greece. Turkey is the salmon colored country on the far, lower right hand side.
Yes. *eyes map* They're very, very close. Absolutely as close as they're made to feel in the movie, which is right next door. Like they share a border or something. Honestly. The bad guys hop in their black Mercedes and SUV's and drive to the Turkish border where, looking suspicious as can be without actually sitting there and polishing their guns while cackling maniacally, they're let right through. I know, I know, *movie*. But why did they choose to set the action in Turkey? I could honestly see someone vacationing in Italy or Greece more readily than Turkey. Not because of any negative aspects to Turkey but because it's just not a place I hear many people talking about when they dream of their vacations. Also, for the purposes of the movie, both of these counties are *much* closer to Albania. Hey, you can even drive to Greece!

So...why *Turkey*? Why Istanbul?

I feel there might have been some sort of *reason*...

Something they'd like to be sitting in the back of peoples' minds...

Something about the people, maybe?

I just wish I could put my finger on it...

Huh. Well, I guess it'll have to remain a mystery.

Leaving aside the multiple times that we're treated to an admittedly really pretty shot of the Blue Mosque or the adhan (which is identified in the movie as 'a man singing' - and that disproportionately annoyed me for some reason) because I admit that they are likely just geographically that noticeable in Istanbul. After all, I've never been there and the Blue Mosque looks rather large. So. I'm accepting those without (much) complaint.

We're now left with the population of Istanbul. A significant chunk of this movie revolves around chase scenes. First the villains chasing Mills and Lenore, chasing Kim, then Mills chasing the villains, etc. etc. All in some very crowded, very ancient looking streets. (Side note, I really would love to visit Istanbul after seeing this movie. *Probably* not their intended outcome.) Now in the first movie, the only person that Mills asked for help was an old operative buddy from the French side of things. Turns out he was getting paid by the kidnappers, so that didn't work out too well, but my point is that Mills wasn't asking random people on the street for help.

However Lenore *was* in this movie. She was running through the streets, trying to get to a taxi stand that Mills had directed her to and she found that her way was blocked by a locked gate. She called out to the hijabi'd women walking on the other side and they just sort of smiled and walked on. Now I am open to the understanding that these women just didn't understand English. I don't assume that everyone does. But Lenore was very clearly, visibly in distress. She was screaming, sweat soaked and terrified. Even if you don't understand the language, wouldn't you do something other than smile and walk on? And then, in the course of her trying to find another way to safety, Lenore runs into a group of niqabis.

Side note: There were a rather large number of niqabis in this movie. I'm not calling it as necessarily done on purpose because I don't know the percentages of women who wear niqab in Turkey vs. hijab vs. uncovered. Maybe the number of niqabis was a correct representation, I don't know. (Honestly, when I first saw the niqabis I thought maybe Lenore would escape wearing an abaya-niqab combination. But *no*.)

Our next shot of Lenore is in the hands of the kidnappers. Viewers are left to jump from black-clad niqabis to kidnapped and held hostage! I can't help but feel that that's deliberate. We're left to either assume that the women handed Lenore over to the kidnappers or that they just stood by and did nothing while Lenore was abducted.

Which is pretty much what everyone in this movie does. If you're not a member of the Mills family, you are either an uncaring bystander who lets all this violence and mayhem go on around you or you are with the villains and are a murdering, raping 'Muslim'.

So congratulations, movie. You've portrayed Muslims as either uncaring (and always a little sinister) or outright evil. Good job. Good totally unnecessary job.

My point is that we could have had this movie (which we really didn't need, and I say this as someone who would watch Liam Neeson sit in a chair and be Irish at the screen), could have had the villains and revenge and all that and left religion out of it *entirely*. But they didn't do it that way. They brought religion into it, tied it through association to all the terrible crimes that were happening, and left it there without even making a token effort to show that hey, yes, these specific people who claim to be Muslim are bad people but not all of them are like that.


  1. You know, I'd like to say I'm surprised by this. But I can't. Because I'm not. *headdesk*

    1. I know. :(

      It was so bad that I even noticed and was annoyed by the Magical Never Emptying Clip in his hand gun. And usually I can suspend realism well enough to ignore that. I know I'm done with a movie when I start nit-picking reality on it.

  2. Thanks for sharing this review and why the movies bothered you. Makes sense.

    Sidenote: I'd love to visit Istanbul one day.

    1. The first movie didn't bother me, actually. It left it at just bad guys of various races doing bad things. It's the second one where things got bad. It was an unnecessary sequel that did unnecessary things!

      You and me, we can go to Istanbul together some day!

  3. I don't want to watch Taken 2 for the same reason I didn't watch Taken 1; I don't see Liam Neeson as an action actor.
    The big problem about Hollywood ALWAYS betraying Muslims as bad guys makes Muslims believe that this is how Americans view Muslims. It is bad for both parties, American children or teenagers watching such movies will grow up thinking they know their enemy. And Muslims watching such movies will grow hate against Americans who always betray them as bad guys.

    Nevertheless, this is not the case in European movies especially in British movies. That is why I like to watch European movies on Netflix.

    I like your review of the movie and the argument that their was no need to involve the religion of the bad guys.

    I went to Istanbul once and I can tell you it is a MUST visit place. And I have been to San Diego, CA and Penang Island in Malaysia. Istanbul is a majestic place, truly beautiful.

    1. Hi!

      Hmmm...I did question it when the first movie came out, but I think that Neeson (in spite of actually knowing how to act) *can* pull off an action role as long as it's a specific kind of action.

      In most action movies the violence is random and excessively gore focused, in my opinion. In Taken, at least the first one, the violence is almost calm about itself (here I go making up images again, bear with me). It's not about violence for the sake of violence or cutting people up and watching the blood splatter with explosions and craziness all over (though that happens in the second movie - how many grenades can one toss onto buildings in Istanbul without any authorities taking notice? My guess is less than the three that were tossed in the movie). Neeson, in the first movie, is playing a man who does not want to be doing what he's doing. He uses the violence as a tool, not as an end in itself which (at least for me) is how I can accept him in this kind of a role. It's not what I would pick for him but then I wouldn't have picked him to play Zeus in the Titans movies either. Or Hannibal in The A-Team. *shakes head*

      The bad part of every Muslim being the bad guy in every American movie is that that is how a good chunk of Americans already think of Muslims. If not actively violent and out to get everyone else then passively accepting of the goals of the violent Muslims. So the movies reinforce this attitude that's so pervasive in our news media and (sadly) so many people never bother to look into the facts themselves and get their knowledge only from supposedly impartial news outlets and movies.

      And Muslims grow frustrated because no matter what they do they're up against an impossible wall of 'knowledge'. It's like the people who demand that Muslims apologise for acts of terrorism. The Muslims say, 'This is not our religion. This is not what we do. We condemn these acts. Let me tell you what we really believe.' and all they get back is, 'That's not good enough! APOLOGISE! FIX IT!' and nothing they can ever do or say will satisfy people like that.

      I don't watch that many European movies, actually. I'm glad to hear they do a better job at it than we do. Someone's got to.

      I have a very long list of places I'd like to visit if I ever got the chance. Istanbul is high up on the list.


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