Whoever was in charge of advertising on this film didn’t represent the movie it turned out to be. The first trailer they ever played for this showed what looked to be a dark and foreboding crime thriller. The trailer more predominantly used made it look like an R rated version of Taken. I like Taken but this is in no way like that movie other than Liam Neeson starring in both. Let me make that clear; this is NOT Taken. This has elements of a crime- noir, such as slow and methodical pacing. There is also a very welcome creepiness factor throughout, which makes it all the more compelling and for me made up for any slowness that might have otherwise felt like excessive bloating to cushion the run time. However, despite all of this, when it gets violent (and it does), it’s as grimy as they come. At times it’s even a bit jarring for someone like me who can revel in the more violent films.
The tough-guy detective, the father who stands outside of the law, whatever tough, no nonsense archetype that you can think of, Liam Neeson has either played it or probably will at some point. There’s a reason for that; he does it like no other. His scratchy, seasoned voice along with his older leading-man style seems to amalgamate into his very Liam Neeson-ness and certainly makes for some very entertaining cinema. He doesn’t exactly take this particular role in a direction other than “true north”, but there is an element in place that really grounds the character; he isn’t the ultimate badass that we all know so well. He was a good detective for the most part and he’s just as adequate at being a P.I. It isn’t until his hand to hand combat abilities are brought front and center that a crack in his façade becomes obvious. In short, he gets his ass kicked. That being said, he can still hold his own, but without his “special set of skills” the action and violence feels more authentic and interesting.
Matt Scudder is a tired but willing P.I. with a history he would rather forget. Eight years on the wagon has been tough but he reached this goal, begrudgingly, right when he’s brought his darkest and most dangerous case yet. A potential client approaches him with a story that his wife has been kidnapped, and through questioning Scudder finds that she was murdered despite the ransom demand being met. The client wants answers; he wants a name and face of those that have violated him so severely. Even though he feels strongly that he should walk away, he takes the case. After multiple encounters with the less-than-savory types that frequent the criminal underworld he comes to the conclusion that the what and who that has committed these atrocities are of a world that is well beyond him. However, into the darkness he goes in hopes of putting a man’s anguish to rest. Because of his past he feels that this case could in some way redeem his actions that have left him less than he was a mere eight years prior. Death is something he isn’t exactly afraid of or something he welcomes. Whichever way it ends up, he’s prepared to deal with it.
This could have taken more traditional and boring avenues to reach the end, and it does sometimes, but for the most part it’s something slightly different and that’s better than what I thought it was going to end up as. That aside, a detail worth the mention is the cinematography and setting. The time of the film is set at the brink of the ridiculous Y2K hysteria that swept the nation. Evidence of this madness is littered all over the streets and it creates a wonderful ambiance of unease. This caters to the dark that occurs naturally in a plot of murder and kidnapping, which is where the creepiness really comes alive. It’s a seedy, steamy and uncomfortable environment and is all the more enthralling because of it. Some will want more mindless action and that’s fine, but you might look elsewhere for that kind of content. This is a slow thriller with Neeson at the helm and it’s a lot of fun to watch.
Rated R For: strong violence, disturbing images, language and brief nudity
Run Time: 113 minutes
After Credits Scene: None
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maurice Compte, David Harbour, Adam David Thompson
Directed By: Scott Frank
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 3.5/ Acting: 3.5/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 4
OVERALL: 4 Nerdskulls
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