Urban Cinefile
"I had a middle class, suburban upbringing - which I loathed. I kept my sanity by watching old Hollywood movies on the tv, where everyone was beautiful and had great emotions, and all the staircases had 400 steps."  -New Zealander Martin Wells, co-writer, co-director of Desperate Remedies
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



SYNOPSIS: Matt Scudder (Liam Neeson), an ex-NYPD cop, now works as an unlicensed private investigator operating just outside the law. When Scudder reluctantly agrees to help a heroin trafficker Kenny Kristo (Dan Stevens) hunt down the men who kidnapped and then brutally murdered his wife, the PI learns that this is not the first time these men have committed this sort of twisted crime...nor will it be the last. Blurring the lines between right and wrong, Scudder races to track them through the backstreets of New York City before they kill again.

Review by Louise Keller:
Competently made, this rather bleak film set in the disturbing, ugly reality of drug trafficking and depraved killings, feels rather routine, with Liam Neeson its best asset. Adapted from Lawrence Block's novel, Scott Frank (The Minority Report, Out of Sight) has constructed a screenplay that describes its flawed characters reasonably well, with the exception of the central sadistic gay couple that tortures and mutilates women. The fact that there is no apparent reason for these heinous crimes lessens the payoff and the film plays long and ploddingly, dialogue incomprehensible at times. Neeson, as the former cop searching for redemption, has a compelling presence: reflective, quietly spoken and determined.

We first meet Matt Scudder (Neeson) in 1991 as a scruffy, out of control NY police officer, sculling nips of whisky along with his morning coffee when a robbery occurs. A shooting spree follows, resulting in an innocent death. Eight years later, Scudder has cleaned up his act, resigned from the force and works as an occasional private eye, taking on cases (and accepting gifts for payment) that appeal to his sense of injustice. As if to remind us that Scudder is a good guy, he is regularly shown at his AA meetings, endorsing the 12 steps of sobriety.

T.J (Brian 'Astro' Bradley), the black homeless kid who lives at the library and becomes Scudder's assistant, although Scudder assures him he is not someone who has a partner, is the most interesting and unexpected character. There's a push-pull quality about the relationship between TJ and Scudder, being the only relationship that we care about in any sense.

The handling of the debauched characters of Ray (David Harbour) and his silent partner Albert (Adam David Thompson) is the film's weakest point. It's no fault of Harbour and Thompson who are appropriately evil and terrifying as they abduct, torture and dispose of women. There is nothing redeeming about the other characters that we meet in the seedy world of drug traffickers, but at least Jonas (effectively played by Olafur Darri Olafsson) as the cemetery groundsman who keeps birds and is writing a novel, is interesting in a grimy sort of way. It all begins when Kenny (Dan Stevens), a trafficker whose wife is kidnapped and butchered (despite the ransom being delivered) hires Scudder, in order to get his revenge.

Incessant rain plays an effective part in the mood generated, as is the editing of AA's mantra as the climactic sequence plays out. The gruesome nature of the exposition may be inevitable but there is an element of sensationalism about it; it left me feeling rather grubby.

Email this article

Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

(US, 2014)

CAST: Liam Neeson, Maurice Compte, David Harbour, Adam David Thompson, Dan Stevens, Eric Nelsen

PRODUCER: Tobin Armburst, Danny DeVito, Brian Oliver, Stacey Sher

DIRECTOR: Scott Frank

SCRIPT: Scott Frank (novel by Lawrence Block)


EDITOR: Jill Sevitt

MUSIC: Carlos Rafael Rivera


RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 16, 2014

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2021