Shocking! Liam Neeson Unleashes Fury Once More in ‘Land of Saints and Sinners’ – Full Review!

Liam Neeson and his “specialized skillset” may be an overused trope, but it’s undeniable that the star has made a name for himself with this persona over the last decade and a half, with numerous roles in action thrillers. Neeson has taken bloody vengeance in various settings – on a train, a plane, in snowy terrains, on a ranch and now, in his homeland, via “In the Land of Saints and Sinners,” a thriller set in Ireland during the Troubles. This film is directed by Robert Lorenz, a longtime producer for Clint Eastwood and the man behind the 2021 Neeson flick “The Marksman.”

The story unfolds in Belfast in 1974, shortly before a car bomb claims six lives, including several children. The culprits, a team of Irish Republican Army footmen, quickly escape to a small village, Glencolmcille in County Donegal. Interestingly, this is the same place where Finbar Murphy (Neeson) is attempting to retire from a clandestine career as a hitman.

The unique geographical, historical, and political backdrop lends a certain allure to this otherwise typical material, though the plot itself mirrors a classic Western. This aspect is further echoed in the nostalgic score by the sibling trio, Diego, Nora, and Lionel Baldenweg, and the well-trodden plot points in the screenplay by Mark Michael McNally and Terry Loane.

Finbar is the seasoned gunslinger with a rigid moral compass, yearning for a quiet life. But when a gang of troublemakers wreak havoc in his peaceful town and harass its defenseless inhabitants, he must harness his skills one final time to safeguard his home.

Colm Meaney features as Finbar’s middleman, Ciarán Hinds as the local Garda (essentially a sheriff) oblivious of his friend’s profession, and Jack Gleeson from “Game of Thrones” is virtually unrecognizable as a jovial young hitman with a typically Irish dark humor. But it’s Kerry Condon, portraying the icy IRA fighter Doireann McCann (possibly based on the infamous Dolours Price), the leader of the mob that comes to Glencolmcille, who is the most chilling presence on screen. When her detestable brother Curtis (Desmond Eastwood) disappears, Doireann comes out of hiding, hell-bent on revenge.

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Condon received an Oscar nomination for her performance in Martin McDonagh’s 2022 film “The Banshees of Inisherin,” which adopted a subtle, symbolic approach to its Troubles themes. In contrast, “In the Land of Saints and Sinners” is straightforward and overt. This enduring national discord descends upon a small town, and while the protagonist and antagonist are more alike than they realize, their objectives place them in conflict. The political turmoil is straightforward yet distanced from the bloodshed that engulfs the village’s streets.

“In the Land of Saints and Sinners” doesn’t offer profound political insights; the setting merely establishes the context and plot tension. This is a genuine Western narrative set against the picturesque green hills of Ireland, beautifully captured by cinematographer Tom Stern. Condon’s enthralling portrayal of a ruthless antagonist is captivating, and no one embodies a hero with a heartache quite like Neeson. With its fine performances, “In the Land of Saints and Sinners” stands out as a compelling thriller in the “Neeson skills” canon.

Review by Katie Walsh, a film critic for Tribune News Service.

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