In the Land of Saints and Sinners (2023)

Movie Info

Movie Info

Robert Lrenz
Run Time
1 hour and 46 minutes

VP Content Ratings

Sex & Nudity
Star Rating
★★★★4 out of 5

Relevant Quotes

Their mischief returns upon their own heads, and on their own heads their violence descends.

Psalm 7:16
Finbar practices shooting while his constable friend looks on. (c) The Samuel Goldwyn Company

Liam Neeson’s latest foray into violence-laden action films is a little more nuanced than his usual fare. This time he is Finbar Murphy, a widower living in a cottage in the small coastal town of Glencolmcille, Donegal during the Troubles of the mid-70s. He is a good neighbor to the older Rita (Niamh Cusack) across the road. He blends in so well with the other customers at the nearby bar that the local constable Vinny O’Shea (Ciarán Hinds) has become his hunting partner. O’Shea never seems to question how his friend earns a living.

We soon learn that he serves resident IRA leader Robert McQue (Colm Meaney) as the go-to hitman, as we see when he is dispatched to a nearby village to put down a popular local doctor who is being feted by the villagers. Forced to dig his own grave and then kneel beside it, the man does not plead for mercy. He resignedly says that he has been expecting this fate and that Finbar should prepare himself for the same fate that will surely come to him as well. This grave-side confession apparently touches Murphy, because he tells McQue that he is giving up his killing—Finbar had never been in the business for political reasons, it has always been for the money. His younger friend Kevin Lynch (Jack Gleeson) is happy to take over for him.

Elsewhere a squad of IRA terrorists have set off a bomb in small community. Six people die in the explosion, including a mother and her two children who just happened by. A sister and brother Doireann McCann (Kerry Condon) and Curtis June (Desmond Eastwood) lead the group. They head for Glencolmcille where Doireann’s sister-in-law lives. Of course, fate will bring this strong-willed ruthless woman into conflict with Finbar, the latter who will find that giving up killing is not as easy as saying “No.”

Director Robert Lorenz and screenwriters Mark Michael McNally & Terry Loane are not interested in politics, the Troubles merely providing the setting for the story. The pace in the first half is much slower than in Neeson’s Taken series. This gives cinematographer Tom Stern ample space to show off the beauty of the green meadows, distant hills, and rugged seascape of the countryside. Also, for the development of Finbar’s relationship with the other characters, including with a little girl being abused. Finbar might be an amoral killer of adults, but he is bothered by injustice against a vulnerable child.

Action lovers will be rewarded by the violent shootout in the crowded pub, with a violent form of justice coming to all. The trope of the hired gun wanting to quit his trade is a staple of the Western and the rime thriller, so there is little that is new, but Liam Neeson’s lined, expressive face and quiet voice effectively express world-weariness and resignation to one’s fate. He is no Oskar Schindler, but he is one, despite his unsavory career, whom we come to care about.

This review will be in the May issue of VP along with a set of questions for reflection and/or discussion. If you have found reviews on this site helpful, please consider purchasing a subscription or individual issue in The Store.

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