In the Land of Saints and Sinners (R) ★★★½

In the absorbing thriller starring Liam Neeson, director Rob Lorenz accomplished a remarkable feat in his movie “In the Land of Saints and Sinners.” He utilized Neeson’s cadre of noteworthy acting roles to guide his tremendous performance. And, the Oscar-winning Neeson, now in his early 70s, has never been more captivating. We meet ex-assassin Finbar Murphy in the quaint Ireland coastal town of Glencolmcille in 1974 — he’s leading a quiet, peaceful life, tending to his garden, working at his pub, bantering with his neighbors, and enjoying the tranquility of his life. 

His serenity is short-lived as the ruthless IRA terrorist Doireann McCann, Kerry Condon, of “The Banshees of Inisherin” (2022), along with her dim- whit associates, bomb a local pub of which horrifically three children were killed. This shock and awe beginning sets up this excellent film’s tone and the audiences’ expectations for a roller-coaster ride in violence, redemption, and deliberation. 

The press notes for the film stated, “With the feel of a classic Western thriller, it’s the story of a man who must choose between keeping his shameful past a secret or exposing it all to protect his friends and neighbors from the outlaws who’ve descended upon their quiet coastal town. The heroes and villains are complex, layered characters, each adhering to their own personal moral code. 

Director Rob Lorenz ‘Zoom’ interview:

Director Rob Lorenz said, “My goal was to embrace that Western spirit while transporting the audience to this special place with a history of harboring fugitives or anyone looking to get lost. From the epic cliffside landscapes as a backdrop to the texture of the period costumes, to the all-Irish cast with their peculiar accents, I aimed to bring as much authenticity and realism as possible and treat audiences to an engrossing and distinctive adventure.” 

Despite the film’s impending violence, I’d be remiss if I didn’t comment on the lovely coastline’s breathtaking scenery. Rob Lorenz told me in our interview this past week that he scouted the location and is pleased that he drove 300 miles north of Dublin’s coast to discover it. 

To avoid divulging too much of the film, as viewing it without knowing what’s happening at every turn is better. I will say there’s a very young girl who is being abused by one of the IRA guys, and Neeson discovers her secret. I’m not even sure that piece was needed in the script, as there are other instances when Neeson makes decisions to make the right choice and to become involved rather than look away. Certainly, anytime a child is being abused, it does force an audience to take notice. His scenes are incredible and authentic, as the resilience of the villagers pushes his character, Finbar, to the brink of moral reckoning. Observing injustices does force him into a no-win situation. He can remain hidden and protect his own peace, thus defeating his longing for redemption, or confront his past, risking everything to defend his newfound community. 

Just know going in, this is a violent film, with people being killed, typically not my favorite genre, although I have seen all of the John Wick films, which are very different in tone, depth, and believability. Here in the beautiful small Irish town, with the IRA bombing their pub, killing children and people, it is genuine. Lorenz does a great job of keeping it real and even adding to the script that perhaps a young man should move to San Francisco, where young people are having a good time. This addition puts his world into a glaring perspective, producing empathy for the character, which is always great to see in a film.

Another of my reasons to view the film is Liam Neeson as I’ve been a huge fan since his Oscar-winning Best Actor Award for the Holocaust film “Schindler’s List” (1993) in a true story portraying Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who becomes an unlikely humanitarian amid the barbaric German Nazi reign. He turned his factory into a refuge for his Jewish employees who would have been sent to Auschwitz death camp. I still remember I saw the film, opening night, his performance was riveting. Here, Neeson is in a similar situation, risking his life and showing empathy for his community, a role he indeed knows well.

Be sure to check out my Zoom video interview on YouTube with director Rob Lorenz as we discuss Liam Neeson’s Irish accent, his collaborations on set, the beautiful location, actress Kerry Condon, his relationship with Clint Eastwood as a former protégé, the topic of redemption for all sinners or not, the layers of the film, his vision, his additions to the script and more.

Director Rob Lorenz Written Interview:

Director Rob Lorenz ‘Zoom’ interview posted to YouTube:

Director: Rob Lorenz

Written by: Mark Michael McNally and Terry Loane

Cast: Liam Neeson as Finbar Murphy

Kerry Condon as Doireann McCann

Jack Gleeson as Kevin

Ciaran Hinkds as Vinnie O’Shea

Sarah Greene as Sinéad

Colm Meaney as Robert McQue

Desmond Eastwood as Curtis June

Production Companies: Facing East, RagBag Pictures, Prodigal Films Limited

Sarah Knight Adamson© March 28, 2024