A Walk Among the Tombstones
In recent years, Liam Neeson has become so swaddled in cliché it’s hard to tell if there’s a man under there anymore. Where once he used to act, his descent into a mid-life action hero crisis has led to a string of languid performances, boredom rarely far from his face. Yet somehow it works. In A Walk Among the Tombstones, a surprisingly dark crime atmosphere develops despite the almost complete absence of character and plot.
Adapted from Lawrence Block’s crime novel, Neeson plays Matthew Scudder, one time cop and sometime PI – unlicensed of course. He’s a man entirely defined by a horrific event in his past. Now he makes a living doing shady work for shady individuals. It’s his willingness to scrape the barrel to leads him to Kenny (Dan Stevens), a drug dealer whose wife has been kidnapped and murdered. Drawn ever deeper into a string of gruesome murders, and with the aid of an implausible homeless teenage sidekick TJ (Brian “Astro” Bradley), Matthew gets that shot at redemption that’s evaded him for so long.
Scudder should be glad of his tragic past: it’s more than nearly anyone else in Scott Frank’s film gets. At least TJ is allowed sickle-cell anaemia, not the most edifying of character traits but better than nothing. The killers, revealed early on, don’t even get that much. Their killing spree is marked by a confusing mix of depravity and financial gain. Expressionless murder and the methodical cleaning of knives do not create compelling villains.
Shock value is sought wherever Frank can find it. Particularly in the final third, characters should watch themselves because someone is liable to jump out of the shadows sooner or later. The ending, a tense showdown in a basement, proves impressive despite blinding predictability. This tails a film that starts with wham-bam promise before sinking into a dull middle period that consists largely of Matthew walking around and looking pensive.
Neeson’s alcoholic ex-lawman is practically crying out for people to rescue. It’s only when he gets to step in to try and save the daughter of Kenny’s friend, a fellow dealer, and TJ that A Walk Among the Tombstones discovers the next gear. When it finally clicks there’s no electric revelation, just a lingering feeling that although there’s very little of note, there’s still plenty to enjoy.
A Walk Among the Tombstones is released nationwide on 19th September 2014.
Watch the trailer for A Walk Among the Tombstones here: