The astonishingly prolific Liam Neeson, currently, at 62, Hollywood’s hardest working action-hero, returns as ex covert-operative Bryan Mills in this half-baked film.
“Who are you, old man?” the Russian gangster Malankov (Sam Spruell) sneers in disbelief when Neeson catches up with him. Everybody else, from the dogged cop (Forest Whitaker) to his ex-wife’s creepy husband (Doughy Scott) seems equally startled by Neeson’s durability. His recent action movies constitute a mini-genre on their own right. He plays every role in almost exactly the same way. He is the old warrior who overcomes family tragedy or alcoholism before kicking the baddie’s ass in the final reel.
What is laughable here is the extraordinarily clunky way in which the screenplay (co-written by the film’s producer Luc Besson) combines family melodrama with random chases and fights. One moment Neeson will be fretting about his daughter’s boyfriend or giving his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) relationship advice. The next, he will be a wanted man, clambering through the sewers of LA with half of the city’s cops in hot pursuit.
Whether he is cornered, handcuffed or in a vehicle that has just been driven off a cliff, we know that he will survive - so dramatic tension is in short supply. There is nothing wrong with Neeson’s performance (he’s like a craggy, Celtic counterpart to late vintage John Wayne) but the film itself suffers from its preposterous plotting and insipid direction. The late Tony Scott used to make this kind of thriller with far more verve and style.
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