Coming to theatres from writer/director Scott Frank with Universal Pictures is a gritty story that doesn’t hold back, especially when you are taking A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES.
Matt Scudder (Liam Neeson) is an ex-cop with a magazine rack loaded with past issues. It is not easy being a hero to the city when the label is stuck on with booze. Years later he is a self professed private investigator going to AA meetings and keeping a daily routine.
A dent is put in that when fellow AA’er Howie (Eric Nelsen) convinces Scudder to meet with his brother Kenny (Dan Stevens). Quickly Kenny tells the story of his wife being kidnapped and held for ransom and even with the ransom paid she was not returned the same way she was taken.
Scudder isn’t really convinced he wants to get involved but $20,000 will get the ball rolling. Beginning in the library he finds discovers there have been other missing women. That’s when TJ (Astro), a young man with a smart mouth and a hip attitude, makes Scudder’s acquaintance.
Discovering that Kenny is in an unsavory business, Scudder tells him to reach out to his associates because where there is one kidnapping – another will follow. He’s right but this time it’s a young girl who is taken by the brazen crazies Ray (David Harbour) and Albert (Adam Thompson).
Now the clock is ticking – but for who?
FINAL WORD: Yep, Neeson does it every time. As Scudder is gets to shed a little Taken to dive into a grittier character that doesn’t seem to fear much. I liked this ‘care less’ with a gun in the face attitude and takes the hits as good as he gives. It really annoys me when the lead gets hit a dozen times and nothing happens – Neeson takes a hit, goes down and gets up. Maybe that’s what makes his characters worth cheering for and trust me on this – audiences cheer when Neeson gets up!
Eric Nelson as Howie also has his demons which is how he gets Scudder to listen. This isn’t a huge role for Nelson but it has its redeeming moment. Stevens as Kenny is a man thinking he’s untouchable because of his line of ‘work’ only to find out it doesn’t quite work that way. A fan of DOWNTON ABBEY means Stevens gets a high five from me.
Astro as TJ shows a little bark as a young man who lives on the streets and trusts no one. The aloft beginning to the relationship with Scudder is an easy way in to a friendship. He is funny at times, a little irritating others and doesn’t listen to a damn thing. Oh that’s right, he knows everything.
Harbour as Ray is just purely psychotic, his got the perfect voice for a creepy dude who wants to kill arbitrarily for cash. When confronted, there isn’t hardly a change in his demeanor…yes, perfect psycho. Thompson as Albert is just pure evil, anyone who can take someone out and stop for a bowl of cereal, yea, that’s evil and well done.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES four tubs of popcorn out of five. I love the gritty and raw storytelling that just entices the audience to go for the full on ride. This sure isn’t the robot clashing cgi-special effects ear shattering movie but instead a sit back and let it all come out with Neeson leading the way – which won’t both anybody for a second.
Director/writer Frank is responsible for writing DEAD AGAIN in 1991, a film that I still to this day will stop and watch any time I see it on. The black and white imagery of that film is obviously something Frank felt comfortable with and it shows in A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES. The lack of color is actually an added bonus to the dark feel of the story being told.
The film is based on the series of novels by Lawrence Block. There are actually 17 novels and this story is number ten in the series. You know what that means? Yes! That means there are 15 more opportunities (8 Millions Ways to Die in 1986 was the first Scudder) to see Neeson done a trench coat (now with an iconic bullet hole) and walk out into the crazy streets finding the next case! Hey, I’m all for it.
There are so many questions in this film that it’s nice to see them slowly come together in a connect-the-dots way. Any other questions I have I hope to find the answer reading the books. Parents looking for a date night movie this is perfect, but leave the kiddies at home. The R rating isn’t just a pretty letter, trust it.
In the end – some people are afraid of all the wrong things.