Director: Scott Frank
Starring: Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, David Harbour, Adam David Thompson, Brian ‘Astro’ Bradley.
Written by: Scott Frank and (based on the novel) Lawrence Block.
Running Time: 113 mins
Release date: 19th September 2014
Do you remember the days when Liam Neeson use to be a serious actor and he wasn’t gruffly speaking memorable yet bonkers speeches or punching wolves. Ok, so he does deserve the success he has got recently, after the tragedy of his private life but it has got to the point where it would be nice to see Mr Neeson back doing roles like Oskar Schindler again. A Walk Among The Tombstones looked like it could be such a film and then it does exactly what we have seen Liam do time and time again.
Matt Scudder was a cop who gave up his position after a tragedy occurs while he was drinking. Years later and he’s now a unlicenced private investigator who is approached by drug dealer, Kenny Kristo. His wife has been kidnapped and even though he paid the money, the kidnappers still killed her. Kristo wants Scudder to find the men so he can seek revenge. Scudder is uncertain at first but soon finds himself in a world that leads to a darker world.
Based on a novel by Lawrence Block, this has all the hallmarks of a 70’s style private eye film, like Night Moves or even the Paul Newman Haper films. Except here we have 90 minutes of laborious explanation, clues revealed that were never really mentioned yet they seem to appear from thin air and a finale that is just violent because, hey, it has Liam Neeson in it.
Those who are expecting another Taken or Non-Stop, will be sorely disappointed because even though Neeson’s Scudder is a foreboding character, an ex-cop with his own demons, he doesn’t go around punching people like he has done in his previous hits. Instead, still using the gruff tones that we have been accustomed to hearing, he strides around purposefully, looking for clues and generally looking menacing without showing any real menace.
At one point, he manages to surmise that the kidnappers use to work of drugs enforcement because, and here’s the catch, the victims are all married to drug dealers. Genius! How about disgruntled clients who maybe had been sold dodgy stuff? Or what about ex-heavies who maybe were fired? No, Scudder is such a great detective that without a moment of real thinking, comes up that the baddies are ex cops themselves. Even Sherlock Holmes couldn’t have got that.
So the film ponders along, throwing up a twist here, a revelation there and all the while you are waiting for the moment that Mr Neeson will kick some butt and punch someone in the face. It seems almost like an eternity for it to happen and then we get the ultra-violent ending that is just plain nasty. Exactly what everyone has been waiting for. Unlike Taken or his previous outings, the violence doesn’t have that comic book feel to it. We can forgive it because it’s so over-the-top that it’s almost laughable. Here, however, it’s quite nasty and vicious, which is in line with the rest of the film’s tone.
The supporting cast is just that. Dan Stevens, who made such an impression in the hugely underrated The Guest, is substituted to playing second fiddle as Kenny, with stylish ‘tash but his character doesn’t really develop beyond that. Brian ‘Astro’ Bradley plays Scudder’s sidekick, a street-wise, smart-ass kid who wants to be a detective too and you question why Scudder wants him along for the ride when he is suffering from a serious illness.
A Walk Among The Tombstones is a film that wants to be taken serious and yet doesn’t have the smarts or the wit to be a proper, old-fashioned private eye thriller and has to revert to graphic violence in case it’s audience is bored. Well, it failed and though it’s not the worst Liam Neeson film in the world (that is still Taken 2), it’s a long way off his best.