Dir: Scott Frank
Cast: Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, Eric Nelsen, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Brian ‘Astro’ Bradley, Adam David Thompson, and David Harbour
Synopsis: Private investigator Matthew Scudder is hired by a drug kingpin to find out who kidnapped and murdered his wife
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review*
At this point we all know Liam Neeson is great at playing a gruff, no nonsense ass-kicker. Some say it’s getting a bit old, but Neeson still manages to bring something different to each character he plays. While he does play almost the same character here in A Walk Among the Tombstones, Neeson once again shows his range of playing a different kind of badass.
Based on Lawrence Block’s novel of the same name, the film follows ex-cop turned unlicensed Private Investigator Matthew Scudder (Neeson), who after a terrible accident eight years before, reluctantly agrees to help a drug trafficker Kenny (Stevens) to track down a pair of criminals (played by Thompson and Harbour) who kidnapped and brutally murdered his wife even after he paid them to return her. When he starts to investigate and digs deeper into what’s going, he finds out these two have done this before and will continue to do so, until they stop.
Like I stated before, Neeson plays a badass again but not a badass like his previous movies like Taken or Non-Stop. Instead of constantly going up to people and beating the crap out of them for not giving him an answer, Neeson’s Matt uses his words – with the occasion threat or wise crack. At one point he does do a Taken-like speech near the end of the movie, which at that point of the movie it felt necessary and welcomed. It’s weird to say but Neeson gets to actually act as opposed to just be a badass and has some depth added to him with past troubles.
Director Scott Frank builds the world and tone right from the beginning. A Walk Among the Tombstones is a unsettling mystery thriller that keeps you engaged and scared for their characters, especially once you figure out what our villains Ray (Harbour) and Albert (Thompson) actually do to their victims. It is a little hard to watch but credit should be given to them for giving eerie performances and Frank for making them feel like monsters in the shadow for a good portion in the film before we see their faces.
The rest of the cast holds their own and do a good job with their roles. Stevens makes us feel some sympathy for his drug tracking character of Kenny, who is a bad guy, but considering his situation, you almost forget that. I actually wish there was more of Stevens because his character and performance was rather great. Eric Nelsen plays Howie, who is Kenny’s brother who has s secret that doesn’t really go anywhere and might fall a bit flat for some. Brian ‘Astro’ Bradley plays TJ, a local street kid that helps Matt and has his own problems going on, but also gets a bit annoying at times. Finally Olafur Darri Olafsson has a small but standout performance as James Loogan.
An interesting backdrop of the movie is that it takes place in 1999 and right at the beginning of the Y2K-scare, which in a nice touch one of the killers says “people are afraid of all the wrong things.” The year doesn’t really come in to play or matter despite being a bit heavy-handed in the beginning of the movie and felt like it wasn’t going to lead to something. The only thing it really leads to is Matt saying he doesn’t put his faith in computers or cell phones, but this does get him close to TJ, who is tech-savvy.
All in all, A Walk Among the Tombstones is a unsettling but engaging mystery thriller where Neeson adds another dimension of his usual ass-kicker roles in the past. The film relies on its tone and performances from its actors to keep you guessing until the end.
A Walk Among the Tombstones
4 out of 5