The actor’s real-life revelation intensifies the discomfort of this violent drama about a snowplough driver hunting his son’s murderer

Even without Liam Neeson’s bizarre promotional “rape revenge” anecdote, this violent movie would leave a weird taste in the mouth, lumbered as it is with odd sub-Coen, sub-Tarantino stylings.

As all the world knows, Neeson caused universal embarrassment in the run-up to the film’s release by regaling an interviewer with a bizarre recovered memory, perhaps most tactfully described as unverifiable. Decades ago he allegedly stalked the streets looking for a black man to beat up, because a black man had raped his friend – before nobly thinking better of it. Neeson evidently expected to be congratulated on his righteous machismo, then on his maturity in turning away from violence, and finally on his alleged honesty about racism, having belatedly grasped that point in the ensuing row.

It could well be that Neeson was influenced by the black comedy in the film itself and thought that his story would be received in the same spirit: an example of the moral craziness of revenge. Either way, the message of his movie, as opposed to the ostensible message of his preposterous anecdote, is pretty clear: revenge is entirely understandable, justifiable and likely to end well for people who are doing it for good motives.

The film is remade from the 2014 Norwegian thriller Kraftidioten, which starred Stellan Skarsgård as a snowplough driver seeking revenge for his son’s murder. Now it’s Neeson playing the driver in snowy Colorado and the gang leader responsible is played by Tom Bateman. The director is the same: Hans Petter Moland.

The bodies pile up, each individual given a tongue-in-cheek “death notice” flashed up on screen complete with nickname after the killing, a gimmick that is much less funny and interesting than the film thinks it is.

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