Rated R. Running time: 1 hour 54 min.
Our content ratings (0-10): Violence 1; Language 1; Sex/Nudity 3.
Our star rating (0-5): 3
Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate…
At first Liam Neeson, he with the face that expresses such tough guy vulnerability, seems to have found a film worthy of the talents of the actor who was so effective in Schindler’s List. Directed and adapted (from Lawrence Block’s series of novels) by Frank Scott, this thriller about an ex-cop is richer in detail than the Taken series. Were it not for its far too bloody climax, this could have been considered even a spiritual film, its protagonist a firm believer in AA’s 12 Steps.
The story begins in a NYC bar in 1991 where off-duty NYC policeman Matthew Scudder (Neeson) is imbibing his usual cup of coffee interspersed with two shot glasses of whiskey. Suddenly three robbers appear and shoot the bartender. Scudder draws his gun, killing two of the thugs. Chasing after the third, he also shoots and kills him. His sense of triumph drops away when he returns to the tavern and sees a mother crying over the body of her little girl. One of his bullets had hit her rather than the villain.
Jump to eight years later. Scudder is at an A.A. meeting at which he gives his testimony. Outside a fellow alcoholic manages to talk Scudder into meeting his brother, a drug trafficker named Kristo (Dan Stevens). The latter’s wife had been kidnapped, tortured and killed, even though he had paid the ransom. Scudder says that he is an unlicensed P.I. now. “I do favors for people, and they give me gifts,” he explains about his under the table receipts. Kristo offers 20K now and 20K when the killers are caught and brought to him. Like in the old days, Scudder starts pounding the pavement, knocking on doors and, showing his old badge for I.D., questioning witnesses and everyone else whom he can connect with the abduction. At the library, with the help of a homeless black youth named T.J. (Brian (Astro) Bradley) whom he meets, he uncovers on the Internet reports of other women brutally slain—all wives or girlfriends of drug dealers. The killers apparently choose the women of drug dealers because they cannot and will not go to the police. The only women in this tough male film are the victims, some of whom we see bound up and being tormented in brief flashbacks. Only a fool would take a date to see this film!
The film is bleak throughout, but the climax takes it to a low level that will repulse most people I know. Even the voice over of a woman at an AA meeting reading the 12 Steps as the characters engage in vicious struggle to the death cannot save the picture now. At first I thought this was a neat touch, similar to the contrast between the words of the Catholic baptismal service juxtaposed against a series of brutal murders in The Godfather Trilogy, but the blood and gore are too much. Scudder might survive the mayhem physically, but what has happened to his soul in the process? And if we watch too many of these kinds of movies filled with mysoginist perverts what might happen to our own?