Liam Neeson put this undeserving film in the world spotlight recently when the Oscar-winning actor told a frightening story about his darkest, racist urges of revenge following the rape of someone close to him.
The controversy – and the hurt and anger felt by many – that followed Neeson’s revelations of historic impulses forced the film’s premiere to be cancelled in New York and it feels all the more distasteful once you see the film Liam was actually promoting when he blurted out his extraordinary admission in an interview.
It’s a flippant, violent revenge comedy, played for dark laughs in the Colorado snows, in which the body count is so high that the closing credits feel it’s droll to list the cast “in order of disappearance”.
Neeson plays a snow plough driver just voted Citizen of the Year in the luxury ski town of Kehoe, not far from Denver. He quickly becomes a vigilante avenger when his late-teenage son is killed by a gang of drug dealers, who inject him with a deadly dose of heroin.
Suddenly, Liam is sawing off his shotgun at the workshop, wandering into a Denver nightclub in his hi-viz, fur collar anorak and ploughing his way through the local criminal food chain, offing characters called Speedo, Santa and Viking before disposing the bodies in a roaring waterfall. The film punctuates each murder with a plinky little chapter heading.
Based on a Nordic original that starred Stellan Skarsgard, this film is reaching desperately for something of the tone of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, but it doesn’t have the acid wit of a Martin MacDonagh script nor any sense of character or political consciousness.
Instead it offends widely, with weak jokes about Native Americans at a hotel needing reservations (I mean really), or a black assassin known as The Eskimo, or a shrewish Vietnamese bride, and some occasional gags about whatever music’s playing on the car radio.
All the while, Liam ploughs on, his face set in that relentlessly cheerless position it’s adopted since he began his series of revenge movies. It started with the politically dodgy Taken and culminates in this pile-up of bodies on screen and and a car crash of publicity off it.