I’m more that two weeks late on this post. Life has gotten in the way of many of my pursuits these days, so it is appropriate that this is the film who’s trail I have let grow cold. If I need to be kept warm in the winter months, I need to see Liam Neeson kill people who deserve to die. It warms my heart to see rough justice since we so often miss true justice in real life.
The set up of the film is not complicated. Neeson’s son is murdered by being given an overdose of heroin. The authorities think he was just another drug user who didn’t know his limits. Neeson’s character’s wife thinks they didn’t know their son at all. It is only as he is about to end his own pain that he discovers what really happened and begins to seek retribution on those responsible. Nels Coxman is not an ex assassin, a CIA agent, or a well trained bodyguard. He is a snowplow driver. His approach is not sophisticated, and the fights are not highly choreographed. He is however methodical and intelligent. Nels simply works his way up the food chain, and fresh fish fall into his lap.
At a certain point in the movie, the deaths start piling up as a consequence of his actions rather than his deliberate execution of offenders. Because his motive is not understood, and the bad guys have no idea why these things are happening, they make assumptions based on their vocation which leads to huge complications. This reminded me a great deal of the 70s films “The Stone Killer” and “The Seven Ups”. Gangland crooks mistake their real enemy and start eating their own.
The nice part about this is that just about every crook who we see get his, earns the death that comes to him. The most effective part of the story other than Neeson is the characterization of the low lives. As each one does something horrible, we just get to start anticipating, “OK, you are next”. The film is based on a Norwegian film “In Order of Disappearance”. In the credits, the character names and actors are all listed and the names vanish in reverse order in listing. It was a clever capstone to the running tally that we have been given during the film.
Laura Dern appears as Nels wife, but she also vanishes from the movie after barely making it into a couple of scenes. The criminals are all the focus in the film. They all have colorful nick names and while the actors are not household names, they add enough personality to make the movie feel worth a watch. William Forsythe shows up as Nels mob connected estranged brother. He provide a little exposition and a satisfying moment with the main villain, but he has only a little to do with the story.
A woman walked out at the end of the movie proclaiming this was the worst movie she’s ever seen, [clearly she has not seen “Vice”]. I did not think it was a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, but I was entertained…and it kept me warm.