Film Review – COLD PURSUIT (2019)

Image result for cold pursuit 2019COLD PURSUIT (USA, 2019) ***½
      Distributor: Lionsgate (USA), StudioCanal (UK); Production Company: StudioCanal / Paradox Films; Release Date: 8 February 2019 (USA), 22 February 2019 (UK); Filming Dates: March 2017; Running Time: 119m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital (7.1 surround); Film Format: D-Cinema; Film Process: Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 15 – strong violence.
      Director: Hans Petter Moland; Writer: Frank Baldwin (based on a screenplay by Kim Fupz Aakeson); Executive Producer: Michael Dreyer, Shana Eddy-Grouf, Ron Halpern, Didier Lupfer, Paul Schwartzman; Producer: Finn Gjerdrum, Stein B. Kvae, Michael Shamberg, Ameet Shukla; Associate Producer: Nicolai Moland; Director of Photography: Philip Øgaard; Music Composer: George Fenton; Film Editor: Nicolaj Monberg; Casting Director: Avy Kaufman; Production Designer: Jørgen Stangebye Larsen; Art Director: Kendelle Elliott; Set Decorator: Peter Lando; Costumes: Anne Pedersen; Make-up: Krista Young; Sound: James Boyle; Special Effects: Jason Paradis; Visual Effects: Jan Guilfoyle, Martin Lake, Noga Alon Stein.
      Cast: Liam Neeson (Nels Coxman), Laura Dern (Grace Coxman), Micheál Richardson (Kyle Coxman), Michael Eklund (Speedo), Bradley Stryker (Limbo), Wesley MacInnes (Dante), Tom Bateman (Trevor ‘Viking’ Calcote), Domenick Lombardozzi (Mustang), Nicholas Holmes (Ryan), Jim Shield (Jaded Coroner), Aleks Paunovic (Detective Osgard), Glenn Ennis (Night Club Bouncer), Benjamin Hollingsworth (Dexter), John Doman (John ‘Gip’ Gipsky), Emmy Rossum (Kim Dash), Chris W. Cook (Ski Bum), Venus Terzo (Mother), Dani Alvarado (Daughter), Julia Jones (Aya), Michael Adamthwaite (Santa), William Forsythe (Brock), Elizabeth Thai (Ahn), David O’Hara (Sly), Gus Halper (Bone), Elysia Rotaru (Diner Waitress), Kyle Nobess (Simon Legrew), Victor Zinck Jr. (Drunken Ski Dude), Raoul Max Trujillo (Thorpe), Nathaniel Arcand (Smoke), Glen Gould (War Dog), Mitchell Saddleback (Avalanche), Christopher Logan (Shiv), Tom Jackson (White Bull), Bart Anderson (Blizzard Bartender), Gary Sekhon (Denver Cabbie), Arnold Pinnock (The Eskimo), Ben Cotton (Windex), Emily Maddison (Gorgeous Woman), Glenn Wrage (Kurt), Michael Bean (Parson), Ben Sullivan (Teen), Travis MacDonald (Ski Lift Attendant), Manna Nichols (Minya), Loretta Walsh (Resort Clerk), Nels Lennarson (Chuck Schalm), Max Montesi (Paragliding Instructor), Peter Strand Rumpel (Viking’s Thug).
      Synopsis: A grieving snowplough driver seeks out revenge against the drug dealers who killed his son.
      Comment: Darkly comic thriller has much to commend it as Neeson plays it straight against a quirky cast of characters. The extreme violence is delivered via a series of well-shot action sequences. Where the story falls down is in not seeing through some of the elements of its plot – the relationship between Neeson and his wife Dern is not fully resolved and the theme of father-son relationships heavily hinted at across a number of the core characters is not fully explored. What remains is an entertaining and stylish story that only scratches at the surface of its potential.
      Notes: Based on the 2014 Norwegian film IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE.

Film Review – THE DEAD POOL (1988)

Image result for the dead pool 1988THE DEAD POOL (USA, 1988) ***
      Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures; Production Company: Warner Bros. Pictures / Malpaso Productions; Release Date: 13 July 1988 (USA), 14 April 1989 (UK); Filming Dates: 17 February – March 1988; Running Time: 91m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Dolby Stereo (4 channels) | Dolby Digital (5.1); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 18.
      Director: Buddy Van Horn; Writer: Steve Sharon (based on a story by Steve Sharon, Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw and characters created by Harry Julian Fink and Rita M. Fink); Producer: David Valdes; Director of Photography: Jack N. Green; Music Composer: Lalo Schifrin; Film Editor: Ron Spang; Casting Director: Phyllis Huffman; Production Designer: Edward C. Carfagno; Set Decorator: Thomas L. Roysden; Costumes: Glenn Wright, Deborah Hopper; Make-up: Monty Westmore; Sound: Richard S. Church; Special Effects: Joe Day, Bob Finley III, Chuck Gaspar, Thomas Mertz, Bruce Robles.
      Cast: Clint Eastwood (Harry Callahan), Patricia Clarkson (Samantha Walker), Liam Neeson (Peter Swan), Evan C. Kim (Al Quan), David Hunt (Harlan Rook), Michael Currie (Captain Donnelly), Michael Goodwin (Lt. Ackerman), Darwin Gillett (Patrick Snow), Anthony Charnota (Lou Janero), Christopher P. Beale (D.A. Thomas McSherry), John Vick (Lt. Ruskowski), Jeff Richmond (Freeway Reporter #1), Patrick N. Van Horn (Freeway Reporter #2), Sigrid Wurschmidt (Freeway Reporter #3), Jim Carrey (Johnny Squares), Deborah A. Bryan (Girl in Rock Video), Nicholas Love (Jeff Howser), Maureen McVerry (Vicky Owens), John X. Heart (Samantha’s Cameraman), Victoria Bastel (Suzanne Dayton), Kathleen Turco-Lyon (Officer at Trailer), Michael Faqir (Sergeant at Trailer), Ronnie Claire Edwards (Molly Fisher), Wallace Choy (Chinese Store Manager), Melodie Soe (Chinese Restaurant Hostess), Kristopher Logan (Gunman #1), Scott Vance (Gunman #2), Glenn Wright (Detective Hindmark), Stu Klitsner (Minister), Karen Kahn (T.V. Associate Producer), Shawn Elliott (Chester Docksteder), Ren Reynolds (Perry), Ed Hodson (Paramedic at Elevator), Edward Hocking (Warden Hocking), Diego Chairs (Butcher Hicks), Patrick Valentino (Pirate Captain), Calvin Jones (Pirate Tug Reporter #1), Melissa Martin (Pirate Tug Reporter #2), Phil Dacey (Detective Dacey), Louis Giambalvo (Gus Wheeler), Peter Anthony Jacobs (Sgt. Holloway), Bill Wattenburg (Nolan Kennard), Hugh McCann (Young Man on Talkshow), Suzanne Sterling (Young Woman on Talkshow), Lloyd Nelson (Sgt. Waldman), Charles Martinet (Police Station Reporter #1), Taylor Gilbert (Police Station Reporter #2), George Orrison (Embarcadero Bodyguard #1), Marc Alaimo (Embarcadero Bodyguard #2), Justin Whalin (Jason), Kris LeFan (Carl), Katie Bruce (Girl on Sidewalk), Harry Demopoulos (Doctor in Hospital Room), John Frederick Jones (Dr. Friedman), Martin Ganapoler (Reporter at Pier).
      Synopsis: Dirty Harry Callahan must stop a sick secret contest to murder local celebrities, which includes himself as a target.
      Comment: Fifth and final DIRTY HARRY movie is an outlandish but watchable thriller coasting on Eastwood’s star presence. The plot is far-fetched, including a great set-piece with a toy car carrying a bomb. Clarkson is a reporter out to get the story who falls in with Eastwood.  Carrey grabs attention as a junkie rock star, whilst Neeson is seen in an early role as a self-obsessed film director. It all adds up to a comic book action thriller, but a diverting time for undemanding viewers.
      Notes: Song: “Welcome to the Jungle,” written by Slash, W. Axl Rose, Steven Adler, Izzy Stradlin and Duff Rose McKageh, performed by Guns N’ Roses, courtesy of Geffen Records, by arrangement with Warner Special Products.

Film Review – THE COMMUTER (2018)

Image result for the commuter 2018THE COMMUTER (USA/UK, 2018) **
      Distributor: Lionsgate (USA), StudioCanal (UK); Production Company: StudioCanal / The Picture Company / Ombra Films; Release Date: 8 January 2018 (USA), 19 January 2018 (UK); Filming Dates: 25 July 2016 – September 2016; Running Time: 104m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Atmos; Film Format: D-Cinema; Film Process: ARRIRAW; Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 15 – strong violence, injury detail.
      Director: Jaume Collet-Serra; Writer: Byron Willinger, Philip de Blasi, Ryan Engle (based on a story by Byron Willinger and Philip de Blasi); Executive Producer: Jaume Collet-Serra, Michael Dreyer, Ron Halpern, Didier Lupfer; Producer: Alex Heineman, Andrew Rona; Associate Producer: Lacey Darlene Paulson; Director of Photography: Paul Cameron; Music Composer: Roque Baños; Film Editor: Nicolas De Toth; Casting Director: Reg Poerscout-Edgerton; Production Designer: Richard Bridgland; Art Director: Wing Lee; Set Decorator: Tina Jones; Costumes: Jill Taylor, Betsy Heimann; Make-up: Sunday Englis; Sound: James Harrison, Steve Little; Special Effects: Stefano Pepin; Visual Effects: Steven Begg, Adam Rowland.
      Cast: Liam Neeson (Michael MacCauley), Vera Farmiga (Joanna), Patrick Wilson (Alex Murphy), Jonathan Banks (Walt), Sam Neill (Captain Hawthorne), Elizabeth McGovern (Karen MacCauley), Killian Scott (Dylan), Shazad Latif (Vince), Andy Nyman (Tony), Clara Lago (Eva), Roland Møller (Jackson), Florence Pugh (Gwen), Dean-Charles Chapman (Danny MacCauley), Ella-Rae Smith (Sofia), Nila Aalia (Sherri), Colin McFarlane (Conductor Sam), Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (Oliver), Adam Nagaitis (Conductor Jimmy), Kingsley Ben-Adir (Agent Garcia), Damson Idris (Agent Denys), Andy Lucas (Manny Engineer), Zaak Conway (Caleb O’Malley), Ben Caplan (Frank), Letitia Wright (Jules Skateboarder), Simon Hibbs (Sean O’Malley), Nathan Wiley (Sniper), Jamie Beamish (Nathan), Ben Nathan (Police Officer), David Alwyn (Platform Trooper), John Alastair (Officer O’Neal), Edward Bluemel (Gwen’s Boyfriend), Aoife Hinds (Jeanie), Alana Maria (Officer Jones), Pat Kiernan (Pat Kiernan), Natalie Duddridge (Natalie Duddridge), Jaime Menéndez (Enrique Mendez).
       Synopsis: An Insurance Salesman/Ex-Cop is caught up in a criminal conspiracy during his daily commute home.
      Comment: Preposterous thriller straight out of the “good ideas” department of the studio corporate wagon. It is almost a carbon-copy re-run of Neeson and Collet-Serra’s previous aeroplane-in-jeopardy collaboration NON-STOP. Whilst it is efficiently made and Neeson, as always, makes for a sympathetic hero, you find yourself scratching your head as to how this could actually be conceived as being in the least bit plausible. The set-pieces are so precisely choreographed they consistently ring false notes, resulting in the deflation of any suspense built through the competent direction and editing. This is formula product assembled for a forgiving modern audience that puts style and visual excitement ahead of intelligent story-telling.

Film Review – UNKNOWN (2011)

Image result for unknown 2011 blu-rayUnknown (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. [12]

Liam Neeson set to be eighth big-screen Philip Marlowe

Reports Image result for liam neesonhave 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.

Film Review – TAKEN (2008)

Image result for taken 2008Taken (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. [18]

Film Review – RUN ALL NIGHT (2015)

Image result for run all night dvdRun 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. [15]

Film Review – THE DEAD POOL (1988)

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. [18]

Film Review – TAKEN 3 (2015)

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. [12]

Book Review – HOPE TO DIE (2001) by Lawrence Block

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.

isbn9781409130109-detailHaving 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.