Something tells me that A Walk Among the Tombstones is not a movie one needs to worry about writing an intelligent review for. Perhaps this is due to the fact that it’s a crime thriller that does its job well and therefore will give those who willingly choose to watch it exactly what they paid for and anticipated. Or maybe it’s that Liam Neeson is back to play a role in which he’s looking for the kidnappers and expected murderers of a wife and child – a hobby that seems to have been his day job for the past decade. Still, at least the victims are not his family this time around.
Based on a novel of the same name by Lawrence Block, Scott Frank (whose filmography includes Get Shorty and Minority Report) directs this entertaining cat and mouse thriller, featuring a typical battle of wits between Neeson’s gruff tone of voice and a small gang of creepy hard men. Neeson is on top form once again here, though one would expect he should be, having had adequate practice at such roles in the past.
Let that not take away from the qualities on offer in this film, however. The plot and characters are well written and smoothly played out, if not entirely original. Neeson plays Mathew Scudder; a former NYPD officer turned private investigator, who is hired by a rich young man named Kenny to investigate his wife’s kidnapping and return the ones responsible to him personally.
It soon turns out that Kenny is a prominent drug dealer in the city, and others like him are being targeted in similar fashion. Thus Scudder finds the trail taking him further into morally ambiguous waters when a little girl, the daughter of another wealthy dealer, is also kidnapped midway through the story.
Aside from Neeson, who is undoubtedly the main draw of the film’s cast and savior of what would be an otherwise forgettable premise, a couple of other notable actors join the ensemble. This includes Dan Stevens, fresh off his two-year stint playing Matthew in Downton Abbey (though I never watched it; I’m reliably informed), in the role of Kenny: the man whose wife is an unfortunate victim of the movie’s villains. Also making an appearance as the father whose daughter is later kidnapped, is Sebastian Roche, the half French half Scottish actor who has been a main staple of American television for the past fifteen years.
There are intelligent moments peppered through the script, such as Scudder’s back story explaining why he quit his previous job as an officer, and his humorous interactions with a wise cracking homeless boy named T-J. They help immerse the audience in an experience that the average viewer will have sought out intentionally as an easy example of their preferred mode of escapism. As a result, while the film may not transcend its established genre conventions to aim for something higher, there are few who will walk away from these tombstones disappointed.
7 / 10