In one of the few instances I can think of, I went to this movie knowing nothing about it except that Liam Neeson was the star. I literally had heard nothing about it and it was only a passing listing on a theater web page that brought me to the movie. The trailer above I had never seen before writing this post, after seeing the film. When I posted it, there were 195,750 views, which does not shout out “Success!” or “Box Office!” in today’s social media environment. That was OK because it is Winter and Liam Neeson is in a movie, so someone is going to do some killing. I am an admitted fan. I somehow missed his last two action films, “The Ice Road” and The Marksman”, but I usually queue up immediately for one of these Winter Action Thrillers. This time I must admit I was disappointed.
This movie is so conventional, it feels like a Netflix retread of an eighties conspiracy film, not a seventies one, which would probably be worthwhile, but more like something drained of inventiveness but slick enough to look interesting for a few minutes. It turns out it never gets as interesting as you hoped it would be. The plot is so simple as to be a trope in and of itself, a government agency is killing citizens it thinks are a risk to the country. This time it is not the C.I.A. or the N.S.A. of some made up intelligence group, it’s the F.B.I. and they have their own rogue operatives. It turns out Neeson’s Travis Block isn’t in on the program, he’s not actually an agent. He works off the books, backing up agents who are in deep cover and need assistance. It’s not clear if the whistle blower agent is his partner, which does not make much sense since Travis is not an agent, or if he is just a close friend. Either way, should he be stopped or praised for coming forward with his story?
No one should be advocating the assassination of someone you disagree with, but the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez plot device is probably going to amuse some people and outrage others. The idea that what she is doing is actually accomplishing something in the movie is silly, and whoever thought getting rid of her was a good idea is an idiot. Which brings us to the first of the two stupidest characters I have seen in a movie in a while. Aidan Quinn is the F.B.I. Director without a ounce of common sense. If you see this movie, see if you can pick out the three times he screws up in his decision making. There is one plot point where he almost goes BOO! and then runs away from the complication. It is the laziest writing I have watched in a theatrical movie in a long time. This could be one of those Bruce Willis Video films that requires no sophistication at all.
The “journalist” in this film is even more stupid. She seems to have no idea that you need evidence, sources and additional corroboration to make a charge in a news publication. Her editor seems to understand that, but he is even more stupid by publishing her work without verification under his own by-line. The truth is, this may unfortunately reflect the state of modern journalism, we are a long way from Woodward and Bernstein.
There is a personal story about Travis having OCD and paranoia, so much so that it drives his daughter away from him and creates a potential problem with his granddaughter. You would think that the threat to the family would be a major element of the film, giving Neeson license to unleash his well known special skills. That turns out to mostly be a red herring. He does not go after the bad guys so much as he runs away from them and outwits them a couple of times. Mostly this is an excuse for chases, none of which are very good, although the idea of a garbage truck being used as a vehicle for local destruction is fun.
I did not hate this film, I simply did not respect it and there are soo many better Neeson Action films, why waste your time?