Unknown (2011; UK/Germany/France/Canada/Japan/USA; Technicolor; 113m) ∗∗½ d. Jaume Collet-Serra; w. Oliver Butcher, Stephen Cornwell; ph. Flavio Martínez Labiano; m. John Ottman, Alexander Rudd. Cast: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aidan Quinn, Bruno Ganz, Frank Langella, Sebastian Koch, Olivier Schneider, Stipe Erceq, Rainer Bock, Mido Hamada, Clint Dyer, Karl Markovics, Eva Lobau, Helen Wiebensohn. A man awakens from a coma, only to discover that someone has taken on his identity and that no one, (not even his wife), believes him. With the help of a young woman, he sets out to prove who he is. Intriguing idea is let down by a hokey script and routine direction. Neeson does his best and brings some class to the proceedings and Ganz is impressive as a German PI with a past. Those willing to accept some of the absurdities of the screenplay may find elements to enjoy. Based on the novel “Out of My Head” by Didier Van Cauwelaert. 
Reports have been issued of the casting of Liam Neeson to play Raymond Chandler’s iconic private eye Philip Marlowe in an adaptation of Benjamin Black’s (pseudonym of John Banville) novel The Black-Eyed Blonde. Neeson will follow in the footsteps of Dick Powell (Murder, My Sweet in 1944), Humphrey Bogart (The Big Sleep in 1946), Rober Montgomery (Lady in the Lake in 1947), George Montgomery (The Brasher Doubloon also in 1947), James Garner (Marlowe in 1968), Elliott Gould (The Long Goodbye in 1973) and Robert Mitchum (Farewell, My Lovely in 1975 and The Big Sleep in 1978).
The script has been written by William Monahan (The Departed) who commented, “The book by Benjamin Black was a pleasure to adapt, and with Marlowe there’s no chance of even being asked to do it left-handed. You have to do Chandler justice, carry a very particular flame, or stay home.”
The adaptation, like the 1968 adaptation of The Little Sister is at this time simply titled Marlowe, will be brought to the screen by Nickel City Pictures and producer Gary Levinson.
Taken (2008; France/USA/UK; Colour; 93m) ∗∗∗ d. Pierre Morel; w. Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen; ph. Michel Abramowicz; m. Nathaniel Méchaly. Cast: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Goran Kostic, Katie Cassidy, Leland Orser, Jon Gries, David Warshofsky, Holly Valance, Xander Berkeley, Olivier Rabourdin, Gerard Watkins, Arben Bajraktaraj, Nathan Rippy, Camille Japy. A retired CIA agent travels across Europe and relies on his old skills to save his estranged daughter, who has been kidnapped while on a trip to Paris. Slick and efficient action movie is tightly edited so it moves at a sufficient enough pace to disguise its incredulities. Neeson is excellent and gives the movie its edge. Followed by two sequels. 
Run All Night (2015; USA; FotoKem; 114m) ∗∗∗ d. Jaume Collet-Serra; w. Brad Ingelsby; ph. Martin Ruhe; m. Alan Silvestri. Cast: Liam Neeson, Joel Kinnaman, Ed Harris, Vincent D’Onofrio, Genesis Rodriguez, Boyd Holbrook, Common, Holt McCallany, Malcolm Goodwin, James Martinez. A hit man has one night to figure out where his loyalties lie: with his estranged son, whose life is in danger, or his long time best friend, mob boss, who wants the hit man’s son to pay for the death of his own son. Despite following genre conventions and taking yet another pass at the estranged father and son brought together through adversity theme, this thriller has its moments. Neeson is in good form as the ageing hit man and Harris brings an element of class to his gangster boss role. Watch out for Nick Nolte in a brief uncredited appearance. 
Dead Pool, The (1988; USA; Technicolor; 91m) ∗∗∗ d. Buddy Van Horn; w. Steve Sharon; ph. Jack N. Green; m. Lalo Schifrin. Cast: Clint Eastwood, Patricia Clarkson, Liam Neeson, Evan C. Kim, David Hunt, Michael Currie, Michael Goodwin, Jim Carrey, Louis Giambalvo, Darwin Gillett, Anthony Charnota, Christopher P. Beale, John Allen Vick, Jeff Richmond, Sigrid Wurschmidt. Dirty Harry Callahan must stop a sick secret contest to murder local celebrities, which includes himself as a target. Fifth and final DIRTY HARRY movie is a watchable thriller coasting on Eastwood’s star presence. Plot is far-fetched, but there is a great set-piece with a toy car carrying a bomb. Carrey as a junkie rock star grabs attention, whilst Neeson is seen in an early role. Based on a story by Steve Sharon, Durk Pearson, Sandy Shaw and characters created by Harry Julian Fink and Rita M. Fink. 
Taken 3 (2015; France/USA; FotoKem; 109m) ∗∗½ d. Olivier Megaton; w. Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen; ph. Eric Kress; m. Nathaniel Méchaly. Cast: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Jonny Weston, Forest Whitaker, Dougray Scott, Jon Gries, Leland Orser, Andrew Howard, Don Harvey, Al Sapienza. Ex-government operative Bryan Mills is accused of a ruthless murder he never committed or witnessed. As he is tracked and pursued, Mills brings out his particular set of skills to find the true killer and clear his name. What starts out promisingly, although borrowing liberally from 1993’s THE FUGITIVE, becomes increasingly formulaic and predictable. The action sequences are so frenetically edited as to be incomprehensible draining away any tension. Neeson displays a magnetic screen presence but he has little to work with leaving Whitaker to take the acting honours as the pursuing detective. Extended version runs 111m. 
HOPE TO DIE by LAWRENCE BLOCK (2001, Orion, Paperback, 340pp) ∗∗∗½
Blurb: Byrne and Susan Hollander stroll home from a concert on a fine summer?s evening in New York. Some hours later, their daughter Kristin arrives home to discover her parents brutally killed and the house ransacked. She also finds she is now a very young millionaire. A few days later the police trace the two killers to an apartment in Coney Island, and both are dead. One killed the other before turning the gun on himself ? at least that?s the way it looks. So that?s another case solved. But for Matt Scudder it’s only the beginning. The more he looks into it, the more things look wrong to him. There’s a murderer out there, and he’s just getting started. Pitted in a deadly game of cat and mouse, Scudder is up against the most resourceful and diabolical killer of his career.
Having recently watched and enjoyed the old-school thriller A Walk Among the Tombstones starring Liam Neeson as Lawrence Block’s ex-alcoholic and part-time detective Matt Scudder, I remembered I had bought a copy of another of Block’s Scudder tales from the bargain bin at Asda some months ago and never got round to reading it. So I decided to catch up on what I had missed.
I found the first half of the book a little too ponderous after the initial set-up of the case. There’s a lot of pages devoted to exposition and a sub-plot featuring the death of Scudder’s ex-wife and his re-uniting with his two sons. We are also reminded that Scudder is a reformed alcoholic who still regularly attends AA meetings. Now older and wiser he finds solace in helping others. Whilst this adds depth to the character it tends to slow the pace of the story. But Block is an experienced and canny writer and he gradually homes in on the case in hand, which twists and turns in unexpected directions. The pace picks up in the last hundred pages and the conclusion is both shocking and surprising.
When I was reading Scudder’s dialogue I had a clear vision of Liam Neeson in mind, showing what a good piece of casting it was and a significant improvement over the previous film adaptation of Scudder – Eight Million Ways to Die (1986) – in which he was played by Jeff Bridges. I look forward to reading more Matt Scudder and also hope he returns to the screen soon.
Walk Among the Tombstones, A (2014; USA; Technicolor; 113m) ∗∗∗½ d. Scott Frank; w. Scott Frank; ph. Mihai Malaimare Jr.; m. Carlos Rafael Rivera; ed. Jill Savitt. Cast: Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, Marina Squerciati, Sebastian Roché, Boyd Holbrook, Stephanie Andujar, David Harbour, Briana Marin, Toshiko Onizawa, Purva Bedi, Maurice Compte, Patrick McDade, Luciano Acuna Jr., Hans Marrero, Laura Birn. Matt Scudder (Neeson), an unlicensed private investigator, reluctantly agrees to help a heroin trafficker (Stevens) hunt down the men who kidnapped and then brutally murdered his wife. Neeson is on fine form and although it never strays too far from genre conventions this is a professionally packaged dark thriller. Based on the novel by Lawrence Block. 
Crossfire (1947; USA; B&W; 85m) ∗∗∗½ d. Edward Dmytryk; w. John Paxton; ph. J. Roy Hunt; m. Roy Webb; ed. Harry W. Gerstad. Cast: Robert Young, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, Gloria Grahame, Sam Levene, Paul Kelly, Jacqueline White, Steve Brodie, Lex Barker. This unusual and worthwhile black-and-white film noir was one of the first movies to deal with issues of anti-Semitism. A weary Washington detective must get to the bottom of a seemingly motive-lacking murder, with the prime suspect a boozy soldier who can only vaguely recall the events of the night. Dmytryk (also responsible for MURDER MY SWEET in 1944) directs with a sure and efficient hand giving the story sufficient room to breathe whilst keeping the plot moving along. Whilst this is not a classic, the film is one of the better examples of the atmosphere and tension the genre could create with a gifted director at the helm. Based on the novel “The Brick Foxhole” by Richard Brooks. Also available in a computer colourised version. [PG]
Crossfire Trail (TV) (2001; USA; Colour; 92m) ∗∗∗ d. Simon Wincer; w. Charles Robert Carner; ph. David Eggby; m. Eric Colvin; ed. Terry Blythe. Cast: Tom Selleck, Virginia Madsen, Wilford Brimley, David O’Hara, Christian Kane, Barry Corbin, Joanna Miles, Ken Pogue, Patrick Kilpatrick, Rex Linn, William Sanderson, Daniel Parker, Marshall R. Teague, Brad Johnson, Mark Harmon. Rafe Covington promises a dying friend that he’ll watch over the man’s wife and ranch after he’s gone. Well-made western with a strong central performance from Selleck, but an overly melodramatic villain in Harmon. Good support cast headed by Brimley as wisened cow hand. Based on the novel by Louis L’Amour 
Decision at Sundown (1957; USA; Technicolor; 77m) ∗∗∗∗ d. Budd Boetticher; w. Charles Lang; ph. Burnett Guffey; m. Heinz Roemheld; ed. Al Clark. Cast: Randolph Scott, John Carroll, Karen Steele, Valerie French, Noah Beery Jr., John Archer, Andrew Duggan, James Westerfield, John Litel, Ray Teal, Vaughn Taylor, Richard Deacon, H.M. Wynant. Scott and his sidekick arrive in the town of Sundown on the wedding day of the town boss, whom the Scott blames for his wife’s death years earlier. Well-made Western where all the characters are shades of grey. Scott delivers one of his best performances as an angst ridden ex-civil war vet out for revenge. Based on a story by Vernon L. Fluharty. [PG]