First Hit: Neeson is really good in an OK film.
Even when he’s given a poorly conceived script, Liam Neeson brings the quality of any film up. Take the last film I saw him in, “Non-Stop”, it was truly a mediocre script, but he made it better.
Here he does the same, although this script is better and overall it's a much better film than “Non-Stop”. As a former police officer who accidentally kills a young girl in a shootout after he’d been drinking, he gives up the drink and law enforcement. When we are re-introduced to Matt Scudder (Neeson’s character), we see he's a changed man, he does AA meetings and does unlicensed PI work on the side.
The story begins when he’s asked to find the killers of a drug dealer’s wife even though the husband paid the kidnappers $400,000 in ransom money. Will he take the job? Yes. At times the scenes of NYC are stunningly shot.
The grit, yet livability of the spaces and streets are true to form and add to the film’s story-line and feel. Scudder meets TJ (Astro) a homeless sickle cell stricken young man who ends up becoming an “associate” that helps him find and apprehend the culprits. Ray and Albert (David Harbour and Adam David Thompson respectively) are two really sick guys that kidnap, kill and maim their young female victims. Their mode is to hit on drug dealers who will have lots of cash on hand, have meaningful women in their lives, and ask for and get a ransom.
However they are sick guys who also just want to maim beautiful women, and paying the ransom won’t return them to their loved ones. I found myself wondering more about the interaction between these two guys because they were sick and odd. This could have been explored more along with their fixation with deviant sexual practices (thrill killing) and the cutting up women.
This edge in the film hung there like a huge weight.
Neeson as is his way, kept the film edgy and believable. Astro was great as the young man wanting to be a part of something and matter in some way. The interactions with Neeson were great. Harbour and Thompson were both perfectly sick in their actions and the way they interacted with each other. Scott Frank both wrote and directed this film.
Overall: Aspects of this film were strong yet I felt something missing and maybe it was knowing more about the kidnappers.