Year Released: 2014
Directed by: Frank Scott
Starring: Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, Robert Boyd Holbrook
(R, 114 min.)
Genre: Drama, Action and Adventure
"Maybe I don't care if you shoot me or maybe there's a rifle pointed at your head." Matthew Scudder
Liam Neeson brings us under his spell once again, this time playing an ex-NYPD cop who now works as an unlicensed private investigator. His eyes say he has seen it all – every depraved and vile crime in New York’s mean streets – but this one is unlike anything Matt Scudder has seen before.
His referral source is tainted goods, an ex (sort of) junkie (Robert Boyd Holbrook) who knows Scudder from weekly AA meetings. The whole case has an odor of corruption, that sickening smell that cries to be wrapped in black plastic and carted off to the trash as soon as possible.
Except that is exactly how the wife of the drug dealer looking to hire him has ended up – just so many pieces of slaughtered flesh wrapped up in plastic bags neatly arranged in an abandoned car trunk.
So let’s forget any crusading quest to rescue a damsel in distress; it’s revenge her husband is after. But Scudder discovers something else as he tries to find the killers. This is not their first rodeo. They have done this at least twice before.
Quick shots take us through the tedious leads as well as a very real walk among the tombstones, where Scudder traces another female corpse whose remains once surfaced inside assorted bags in the cemetery pond. The groundskeeper, played by Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, fits every Halloween stereotype for the innate creepiness of someone who seems perfectly at home tending the greenery among the stiffs. And it turns out that he knows more than he admits to. The groundskeeper’s hair-raising exterior is a valid clue, but one that gets Scudder just a few crumbs because of his early exit off a rooftop, an unexpected and riveting moment I wouldn’t give away except that it is featured in the previews.
Some others refuse their exit calls, such as the savvy street urchin TJ (Brian 'Astro' Bradley), a homeless aspiring PI who inhales Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe fiction and attaches himself to Scudder like an amateur tail. He searches for a nick in Scudder’s armor and finds the hint of a few soft spots, but Scudder’s lesson when he find TJ with a discarded gun is anything but soft. After a few lessons on the intracacies of loading, Scudder tells TJ to point the pistol at his head and pull the trigger. He might as well do it himself, Scudder warns, since that will be the ultimate result.
Another interesting surprise is Dan Stevens as Kenny Kristo, the drug trafficker who hires Scudder. Who would have recognized the chubby-cheeked Downton Abbey dropout, Matthew Crawley, behind the chiseled cheeks and goatee? Those of you who have never forgiven the Limey for leaving the series just as he had finally settled down with Lady Mary – after I’ve lost count how many seasons of teasing us along through their on again off again romance – will find his character getting his true comeuppance here, at least on screen that is. Not only is he a scummy drug dealer, but he is the one who loses his spouse, and it’s such a prolonged tease of rescue that merely leads him to her bagged and bloody remains. Oh well, life in American and all that.
Usually we have to wait until the February movie blahs to get our adrenaline injection of bad ass Liam Neeson, the 6’4” 62-year-old Irishman who stormed into the cinemas with 2009’s surprise hit Taken.
Even if you do not know that this is the same actor who won as Oscar for his leading role in 1994’s Schindler’s List, you can’t help but notice how Neeson commands the screen without effort, his quiet authority and shadowy voice weaving that same hypnotic spell Clint Eastwood mastered so well.
John Nolte compares him to the late Charles Bronson, best know for his role as a crime-fighting vigilante in 1974’s Death Wish:
Neeson, as always, is splendid. Like the Mighty Charles Bronson before him, Neeson's completely unexpected middle-aged renaissance as an action movie star is a gift from the movie gods. Neeson is the rarest of creatures in the year 2014: a legitimate and legitimately talented movie star who can carry the whole load.
This is indeed a dark tale. “Life is but a walking shadow,” as personified in Neeson’s Matthew Scudder, but it is certainly not “a poor player that struts his hour upon the stage.”
Liam Neeson treads among the tombstones, perhaps catching a glimpse of his own name chiseled into one, without breaking stride.
Poor Scudder is just about to eat his breakfast when a very twitchy ex addict friends summons him to a case. Casting a reluctant glance at his untouched plate, he asks to waitress to keep it warm for him.
The facts of the case he is about to take on might cancel his last request, since anyone with blood still cursing through his veins would lose his appetite after hearing about the sordid details.
Now you and I may have our doubts as to whether Scudder fits the above description, but I do not think he ever gets back to the plate warming in the diner kitchen.
Let’s eat it up for him then. We can’t let this good meal go to waste.
Spicy Cheese and Pepper Omelet Recipe
4 whole eggs
4 egg whites
¼ cup water
1 green pepper, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
½ cup KRAFT 2% Milk Shredded Mild Cheddar Cheese
½ cup TACO BELL® Thick & Chunky Salsa
Beat whole eggs, egg whites and water with whisk until well blended.
Cook vegetables in large nonstick skillet sprayed with cooking spray on medium-high heat 5 min. or until crisp-tender. Remove from skillet; set aside.
Add eggs to skillet; cover. Cook 6 min.
Top half of omelet with pepper mixture and cheese; fold in half. Cook, covered, 3 min. or until cheese is melted. Serve topped with salsa.