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“In the Land of Saints and Sinners” Surprisingly Satisfies

Written by: Matt Patti | March 29th, 2024

In the Land of Saints and Sinners (Robert Lorenz, 2023) 3 out of 5 stars

Liam Neeson (The Ice Road) is back at it again. He’s lived a dangerous life full of violence but is looking to finally settle down when an unfortunate incident calls him back to his roots. Using his very specific set of skills, he will stop at nothing to protect the innocent and make those who harm them suffer!

Does the above plot description seem familiar? It should. Liam Neeson, though one of my favorite actors, does seem to play the same type of character in the same type of film almost every time. It makes a lot of sense, though, as he’s good at what he does and a perfect fit for those roles, so it’s no surprise he is cast in them time and time again.

Liam Neeson in IN THE LAND OF SAINTS AND SINNERS ©Samuel Goldwyn Films

I would be remiss not to admit that for many viewers, including myself, Neeson’s very similar characters in films with recurring storylines can get tired and clichéd after a while. Thankfully, in director Robert Lorenz’s 20th-century Ireland crime thriller, In the Land of Saints and Sinners, this is not the case.

In the film, hitman Finbar Murphy (Neeson) is pondering giving up his career. His last victim’s advice before his demise was something that struck Murphy to his core: do some good in the world before you hit the grave. Murphy is getting old, and though he’s still very good at his job, he wants to make a positive difference in his community. 

Kerry Condon in IN THE LAND OF SAINTS AND SINNERS ©Samuel Goldwyn Films

He takes a particular interest in his neighbor’s young granddaughter, who always seems to have bruises on her neck and arms. Murphy connects the dots and finds that her “Uncle” Curtis (Desmond Eastwood, Barber) is responsible for the abuse. Murphy is determined to punish Curtis for his actions, but Curtis is a member of the IRA and has very dangerous friends.

With the help of Kevin Lynch (Jack Gleeson, Rebecca’s Boyfriend), a young hitman working for the same boss, Murphy decides to take on the perilous IRA cell of which Curtis is a part. However, in response to Murphy’s actions, the IRA begins ramping up attacks in his area. Has Murphy bitten off more than he can chew?

l-r: Jack Gleeson and Liam Neeson in IN THE LAND OF SAINTS AND SINNERS ©Samuel Goldwyn Films

In the Land of Saints and Sinners certainly starts off similar to a typical Neeson film. We see that Finbar Murphy is a beloved member of the community, well-liked by neighbors, local law enforcement, and many others in his town. However, none of them seem to know what he does for a living. When completing his work as a hitman, Murphy is cold, composed, and crafty, but not cruel in any way. He’s all business, with no personal enjoyment of the task.

The first indication that In the Land of Saints and Sinners will follow its own path is the introduction of Kevin Lynch. Lynch works for the same boss as Murphy and also delivers hits, but is in many ways the polar opposite of Murphy. Arrogant and at times reckless, Lynch enjoys his work very much, even stating that he laughs as he carries out his executions.

Jack Gleeson in IN THE LAND OF SAINTS AND SINNERS ©Samuel Goldwyn Films

The dichotomy between Murphy and Lynch, two folks doing the exact same job in entirely different ways, is the highlight of the film. Having a second character that repeatedly helps Neeson’s character is a welcome choice and works better than having Neeson go it alone as he usually does, as it gives him someone to interact with in very compelling conversations and also gives him more of a challenge to the way he does things.

Both Neeson and Gleeson deliver exceptional performances here. Neeson is able to naturally use his northern Irish accent to quality results as his line delivery hits another level and Gleeson is overflowing with charisma. Gleeson’s equally impressive performance is a welcome return for the actor, especially after giving up acting for almost a decade after his iconic role as Joffrey in HBO’s Game of Thrones.

l-r: Ciarán Hinds and Liam Neeson in IN THE LAND OF SAINTS AND SINNERS ©Samuel Goldwyn Films

In addition to the chemistry between Neeson and Gleeson, In the Land of Saints and Sinners also features other great performances across the board, including from other Game of Thrones cast members. The film features many scenes of palpable tension between characters and a real sense of danger, all with a beautiful backdrop of Ireland’s hills and a charming score, quite the irony with the situations that take place. The conclusion is a thrilling and suspenseful one, though with some choices that are not quite satisfying enough.

There are a few other aspects of In the Land of Saints and Sinners that could be better. The main gripe I have is that the relationship between Murphy and the little girl for whom he upends his life is very seldom explored and not fleshed out enough due to an extreme lack of screentime for said girl. This leads to the audience not caring nearly enough for the girl or for why Murphy is doing all of this. Some other issues include the first act of the film, which is quite slow and meanders around a bit, and some very gullible characters that make unintelligent decisions.

Liam Neeson in IN THE LAND OF SAINTS AND SINNERS ©Samuel Goldwyn Films

Overall, though, In the Land of Saints and Sinners succeeds. With quality cinematography and a memorable score, great performances across the board, two very strong and layered characters in Murphy and Lynch, and suspense and thrills throughout, it overcomes its shortcomings. Let it be known that this is not your run-of-the-mill Neeson thriller.


Matt Patti has enjoyed voicing his opinions on films from a young age. He has lived in the Baltimore, Maryland, area since 2015 and is a graduate of Stevenson University’s Film & Moving Image program. Matt is currently back at Stevenson University, working as the School of Design, Arts, and Communication's Studio Manager.

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