This is no vacuous retread of the rambunctious “Taken” series nor is it implausible action nonsense like “Non Stop”. Neeson lays aside the superhero persona here to deliver a performance of real weight in this atmospheric serial killer drama based on the novel by Lawrence Block.
When a drug trafficker’s wife is kidnapped and murdered, he turns to unlicensed Private Detective Matthew Scudder. Scudder, damaged and guilt ridden by his past, reluctantly takes the case only to discover that the wife’s murder is linked to a series of grisly crimes throughout the city.
The cast is superb, led by a near career best performance from Liam Neeson and an engagingly pugnacious turn by Brian “Astro” Bradley as young street punk TJ. Neeson is not the super badass of “Taken” but just an ordinary man, wounded and haunted by the past and compelled to make what amends he can, including looking after TJ.
Writer/ Director Scott Frank brings the grim and gritty tale to life in a bleakly autumnal New York and delivers an uncompromisingly intense thriller reminiscent of “Silence Of The Lambs” without the glossy finish. From a disconcerting opening which initially seems romantic and sensual before gradually revealing itself to be something altogether more unpleasant and sinister, Frank ratchets up the tension masterfully. The film creates a powerful sense of menace by keeping the villains of the piece mysterious and hidden for most of the film, only allowing the slightest glimpses of their faces and their crimes which pushes your imagination to make it much worse than what’s shown on screen.
Not as action packed as many might be expecting, the two hour running time flies by thanks to the tight plot and superb performances. Hard in language and harsh in execution, this is a gripping drama with a genuinely nerve shredding finale.