In a remote Irish village, a damaged father is forced to fight for redemption after a lifetime of sins, but what price is he willing to pay? In the land of saints and sinners, some sins can’t be buried.

Chuck says:

People build legacies in different ways. Some have a large family. Some pour their energy into their work. Others devote their lives to the church. Then there are those who spend all their time doing charitable works. Finbar Murphy’s legacy is something quite different. In a remote part of a forest near where he lives there’s a small grove of trees, all of them of various sizes. Beneath each is a man he’s killed. This is a legacy that was never meant to be as large as it is and the fact that it has grown to the proportions it has, is weighing on Murphy.

Far more than just a simple Liam Neeson actioner, “In the Land of Saints and Sinners,” is an examination of what happens when a life of justifications and compromises, fueled by self-righteous anger, is lived.  Taking place in Glencolmcille, Ireland in 1974, the script by Mark Micheal McNally and Terry Loane takes a hard look at the effects of the violence that swept through the country during this era, examining how it impacted the communities where it took place, but also the toll it took on those who perpetrated it.

Realizing he only has so much time left, Murphy (Neeson) informs McQue (Colm Meaney) that he’s retiring. Intent on starting again, he plants a garden behind his tiny home. However, his peaceful existence is short-lived. Rita (Niamh Cusack), a young widow who works at the local pub, has taken up with a newcomer. Curtis (Desmond Eastwood) is a violent outsider with a short fuse, who she’s taken into her home. However, when Murphy realizes he’s been abusing Rita as well as her daughter, he takes matters into his own hands, breaking his vow to kill no more.

Unbeknownst to him, Curtis’ sister Doireann (Kerry Condon) and her two cohorts are headed to Glencolmcille to hide out. Members of the I.R.A., they were responsible for a bombing in Belfast that went horribly wrong, killing six innocent people, three of them children. Desperate, they hope to lay low until the smoke clears, but once Doireann finds that her brother has been killed and Murphy was responsible, blind rage overtakes her and she sets out to get him, no matter the cost.

This sets up a game of cat-and-mouse, punctuated by acts of violence that are shocking and well-choreographed. Of particular note is a shoot-out in a pub that catches far too many innocents in the crossfire. Simultaneously juggling four different perspectives at the same time, director Robert Lorenz succeeds in keeping just who is doing what to whom, and its impact, in what could have been a confusing jumble. The violence is never glorified, the impact of how sudden and devastating incidents such as this can be, powerfully staged

It’s good to see Neeson in a role with a bit more depth than that of which he’s been playing lately.  There’s a weariness about him here that’s touching, a realization that the path he’s chosen has doomed him and has affected him in ways he could not have anticipated. This makes his yearning to turn over a new leaf all the more poignant. Condon is the perfect counterpoint to him. A force of nature, she is rage personified yet the character is smart enough to realize the walls are closing in on her.  The actress excels during Doireann’s introspective moments, the final scene beneath the pair a reckoning that resonates.

Though more low-key in tone than Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven,” “Saints” deals with many of the same issues. Though it satisfies something within our basest nature, acts of violence echo throughout the lives of those that inflict them. The immediate harm is to the victim but for those who succumb to the impulse to harm, especially those who repeat it, scars are inflicted on their psyche that make them nothing more than the walking dead, destined to live an empty life of regret.

3.5 Stars

Pam says

Liam Neeson is no stranger to action flicks and while this one is most certainly of that vein, it actually is a bit more than just a typical one.  Taking place in Ireland 1974 during the height of the IRA bombings, Neeson’s Finbar Murphy isn’t exactly a saint.  Paid to murder, his last victim has a few words that actually strike a chord with him; he now wants to ‘retire’ and live a peaceful life in his hometown in County Donegal.

Of course, it’s just as he hangs up his holster that Finbar steps into some dirty business that affects the people in his town with whom he is the protector and we know the final showdown is inevitable.  Much like the old Westerns, the  sheriff or Garda in this case lead by the sweet and forgiving Officer O’Shea (Ciaran Hinds) who can’t shoot a target the size of a barn, just may be on to something but doesn’t put it all together until the end.  Finbar’s underground knowledge may jeopardize the well-being of those he cares about, but he will stop at nothing to rid his town of the scourge that has invaded it.

Is this predictable?  Absolutely.  However, there’s actually dialogue that allows us to get to know Finbar and those around him.  He’s not a sociopath, but he does seem to compartmentalize things quite well, and he has a fatherly nature about him.  And unlike many of Neeson’s previous action films, he doesn’t “dial it in.”  His interactions with little Moya (Michelle Gleeson) are precious and you get the sense that he could easily be Rita’s (Niamh Cusack) neighbor, or the chap who stops in at the corner store every now and then.  It’s a familiar feel as everyone knows everyone and a stranger stands out like a sore thumb.

While the “bad guys” are unmistakably bad leaving nothing to the imagination, Kerry Condon gives us a shocking performance as Doireann McCann, the leader of a gang who tries to fight for Northern Ireland in the only way they know how.  Condon is terrifying as she becomes this vengeful, smart, and tough Irish woman, confirming that she can play any role with conviction and believability.

If this isn’t enough for you, the scenery should be as it could be a travel invitation to the “forgotten” county of Donegal along the cliffs and stone streets of small villages and a bar on every corner.  There are times that the Irish accent is a bit tough to understand, but you’ll get the gist of it.  With all the Irish actors and their accents, it just makes it a more authentic Irish story.

“In the Land of Saints and Sinners” is a violent one, but not as disturbing or high of a body count as other films of this ilk.  Yes, there’s violence and there’s also a reality to it as these atrocious bombings that killed thousands including children did happen and not that terribly long ago.  While the ending is over-the-top with ridiculous reappearances from those who have been mortally wounded, the film has characters we care about and we need to stick around to the end.

3 Stars


Recent Posts
Contact Us

Chuck and Pam would love to hear from you! Send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt

Start typing and press Enter to search

Stay up to date with Chuck and Pam!
Join our monthly newsletter for behind the scenes looks, special interviews, and bonus content!
We respect your privacy.