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A Walk Among Tombstones (A Movie Review)

Updated: Apr 16, 2020

A Walk Among the Tombstones

A Walk Among the Tombstones


Starring Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, Brian “Astro” Bradley, David Harbour, Adam Davis Thompson, Boyd Holbrook, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Sebastian Roche, Mark Consuelos, Danielle Rose Russell, Laura Birn, Marielle Heller, Liana De Laurent, Whitney Able and Razane Jammal.

Screenplay by Scott Frank.

Directed by Scott Frank.

Distributed by Universal Pictures.  110 minutes.  Rated R.

We’re about six years now into the reinvention of Irish actor Liam Neeson.  Once best known for brainy dramas, like the real-life title characters in historical films Schindler’s List and Kinsey, since Taken in 2009, Neeson 2.0 is more of a kick-ass action star.  The change in direction has certainly raised Neeson’s stature in the stratosphere of Hollywood.  Ironically as his vehicles got cheesier, his standing in the movie business has only risen.

Now he is considered a leading man – a thinking man’s Bruce Willis or Sly Stallone.  While very few of his films in this new mode have captured the giddy junk-food highs of Taken, Neeson has become a very reliable movie hero.

A Walk Among the Tombstones starts with a leg up right off the bat, because it actually has very strong source material.  In the film Neeson plays Matt Scudder, a former-cop-turned-private eye in a series of books by crime novelist Lawrence Block.  In fact, the film feels like the starts of what could be a pretty decent series of films, which I suppose will depend on the popular reaction to this first salvo.  (The Scudder character had previously appeared on screen in the flawed 1986 film called Eight Million Ways to Die.)

For the record, A Walk Among the Tombstones disappeared with barely a trace when playing cinemas briefly last year, however now that it is getting video and VOD release (with cable to come), perhaps this smart crime story will capture its audience.

The film is somewhat superfluously set in 1999, right as Y2K panic is taking hold.  (I’m assuming this choice of time period comes from the book, because it really adds very little to the story.)   A Walk Among the Tombstones stars Neeson as Scudder, a recovering alcoholic who quit his job as a respected policeman after an off-duty gunfight with three armed robbers goes horribly awry.  He’s become an unlicensed P.I.  (“Sometimes I help people,” he explains.  “Sometimes they reward me for it.”)  Mostly, though, he spends his time in AA meetings trying to maintain his sobriety.

It is through these meetings that Scudder reconnects with Pete (Boyd Holbrook), a former junkie on parole.  Pete wants to connect Scudder with his brother Kenny (Dan Stevens), a drug dealer whose wife was kidnapped.  Despite paying the ransom she was killed and the body was cut into small pieces, left in an abandoned car trunk.  Kenny wants to find out who the kidnappers were to extract his own revenge.

Scudder immediately refuses to help, but eventually Kenny convinces him to look into the killing.  It quickly becomes apparent that the two killers have struck before at least a few times.  However, the deeper he gets into the mystery, the more questions remain.

The film shows the killers throughout – barely named through most of the film, though eventually called Ray (David Harbour) and Albert (Adam Davis Thompson).  They are somehow involved in an underground snuff video world.  The gregarious Ray appears to be the ringleader – Harbour’s generic handsomeness adds a chill to his character’s horrific acts – but it eventually turns out the Albert is the truly cold-blooded one.

Scudder slowly and tirelessly tracks them down, with the help of a homeless black teen (Brian “Astro” Bradley), leading to the inevitable showdown.

It’s not exactly the most original story ever, but it is chilling and intelligently rendered.  A Walk Among the Tombstones is not a great film, but it is certainly one of Neeson’s better action movies.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2015 All rights reserved. Posted: January 10, 2015.

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