Lillian (Julia Stiles), a young woman newly returned to her hometown amidst the Pacific Northwest logging community, is repeatedly menaced by Blackway (Ray Liotta), an ex-cop turned violent crimelord. Such is the fear and power he commands in the area local townsfolk refuse to help. Even the sheriff suggests Lillian leave town to start a new life somewhere else. However, having only just lain her late mother to rest, she is determined to stay put. In desperation Lillian heads to the logging mill to find someone willing to help her take on Blackway. To her surprise the elderly Lester (Anthony Hopkins) and his laconic young sidekick Nate (Alexander Ludwig) prove the only men brave or foolhardy enough to face the most dangerous man in town.
After Scandinavian crime thrillers exploded in popularity throughout the world several of the leading exponents of the sub-genre branched into mainstream Hollywood careers with varying degrees of success. While Thomas Alfredson made the jump with the Oscar-nominated Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011), older brother Daniel Alfredson saw his English-language debut unjustly dumped onto the DTV market despite its starry cast. Daniel helmed two thirds of the Lisbeth Salander trilogy with The Girl Who Played with Fire (2009) and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (2009) but has been active in Swedish crime films since Roseanna (1993). However, the Salander films do not have quite the same exalted reputation stateside that they do in Europe while lately the marketplace has been less than receptive to mid-budget thrillers. Hence Go With Me joins an alarmingly large group of high-profile films bypassed for theatrical release.
Based on the novel by Castle Freeman Jr. Go With Me was re-titled Blackway stateside but reverted back to its original, arguably inferior title on these shores. The almost archetypal plot is not far removed from a western: a woman in peril hires an ageing gunfighter (of sorts) to see off the villain and restore order to a lawless town. Alfredson brings a distinctively Scandinavian style of austerity, some might say gloom, to the familiar story while Hopkins seemingly enjoys a rare chance to play a sort of greyer, more understated and vulnerable John Wayne or Clint Eastwood, facing down thugs with only his wits and guts. He must have enjoyed working with Alfredson since the pair rapidly re-teamed for Kidnapping Freddy Heineken (2015). In their own soft-spoken, down-to-earth sort of way Lester and Nate prove quite the badasses. If the premise is classical, the execution is very modern. Alfredson develops the story through flashbacks, feeding information piece by piece as we learn more about the hold Blackway has on this town through horrific episodes as when an associate wakes up in bed one night to see him clutching his terrified little daughter. Even Lester shares a little personal history with Blackway. A chance encounter with the then-deputy sheriff shortly after Lester left his daughter's funeral instilled him with no small amount of loathing.
Performance driven, the film gives its actors a fair amount of meat to chew although Alfredson adopts a less is more approach to characterization to build a quasi-mythic aura around the protagonists. In the case of Blackway this works fairly well as the film builds an aura of menace around him long before Ray Liotta appears onscreen. Yet for the most part the characters remain frustratingly obtuse. After a brisk set-up Go With Me devolves into a rambling odyssey across a stark landscape, through disgusting motels with drug-addled reprobates and captive sex slaves. Sort of a talkier, less action packed version of Taken (2008). Filmed in the wilds of Enderby, British Columbia, the scenery is both impressive and oppressive but the suspense slackens and the script's dry wit proves hit and miss. Deep down it just recycles the same familiar platitudes about not backing down and doing what must be done that while routinely mocked in action films tend to get a free pass in more pretentious thrillers, married to the kind of existential musing about the rural American landscape that appeals to European filmmakers. The final confrontation is so pat viewers will likely suspect there must be more to this, but no. There isn't. Go With Me is a lot more conventional and a lot less profound than the filmmakers seem to think it is.