Starts November 13, 2014
Directed by: Scott Frank
Writing credits: Scott Frank screenplay, Lawrence Block novel
Cast: Liam Neeson, Boyd Holbrook, David Harbour, Adam David Thompson, Sebastian Roché, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Laura Birn, Natia Dune, Leon Addison Brown
Length: 114 minutes
New York City 1991: off duty, relaxing in a cops hangout Matt’s (Neeson) interrupted, follows the shooters outside, and… 1999: retired and an unlicensed private investigator, Matt’s introduced to a drug trafficker (Dan Stevens) who wants retribution for his abducted, then cruelly murdered wife. Matt grudgingly agrees to help. Looking through newspaper archives in the library, with technical help from TJ (Astro) – a bright homeless black kid he meets – Matt spots a pattern. Clues from sadistic crimes with the same modus operandi lead Matt into the city’s derelict areas. Detecting one common thread, he takes occasional liberties. Then adolescent Lucia (Danielle Rose Russell) is snatched; Matt takes over, hoping this time might be different.
With his tight screenplay, Scott Frank’s direction is equally unflinching. He delves into the most aberrant of personalities—convincingly conveyed by the cast—typifying characters in Lawrence Block’s mysteries. Justifiably our trepidation accelerates; awareness of what Matt’s up against is achieved through taut camerawork (Mihai Malaimare Jr.) and arresting music (Carlos Rafael Rivera). Jill Savitt’s restrained editing is incremental, realistic. Conversely, Neeson’s equanimity as Block’s most famous, ever-evolving Matthew Scudder adds an element of unexpected stillness. For some the contrasts could be too great, but… if you hanker after a volatile whodunit, take this walk through the tombstones. (Marinell H.)