When Liam Neeson isn’t playing Zeus, training Batman or killing European men to save his daughter, he works as a private investigator in 1999 New York City.
In “A Walk Among the Tombstones”, Neeson plays Matthew Scudder, a retired New York City cop who now finds employment as a PI. When a drug kingpin contacts Scudder about finding the men who killed his wife, Scudder finds himself in a race to catch the men before they strike again. Dan Stevens and Boyd Holbrook also star, as Scott Frank writes and directs the film, which is based on a Lawrence Block novel.
Liam Neeson has had quite a diverse 2014. After starting the year voicing a Raccoon and a Lego cop, he saved a hijacked airplane (oops, spoiler. But I mean…if you haven’t seen “Non-Stop” at this point then I doubt you really want to) and he also played an American cowboy with an Irish accent (because, sure). Now Neeson takes a step back and takes on a much more serious and reality-grounded film with “Tombstones”. And how is it? …I mean, it’s alright.
The setup in this film is very solid. We get a little bit of Scunner’s backstory as to why he became a PI and quit the NYPD, but just enough to wet our appetite; we get bits and pieces throughout that complete the puzzle. We are then introduced to the kingpin, played by Dan Stevens. The guy seems like he has a few demons he himself is dealing with, and he is drug dealer, so we are not sure if we can trust him. However when he shows Scunner what the men who kidnapped his wife did to her, we quickly learn that they are not human, and that they need to be stopped.
“Tombstones” isn’t really a mystery, as we know 15 minutes in who the bad guys are, and what their motivation is. The movie even shows several scenes from their perspective. But it continues to treat itself like it is a mystery, as if every time Neeson himself finds a clue we are supposed to act all surprised and begin racking our own brains. This is one of the film’s largest flaws.
As interesting the characters and despicable the villains, we are never really met with many moments of tension or suspense. Sure, sometimes you feel like Neeson is being followed, or that a character knows more than they’re leading on, however the matter is quickly resolved, before you can really absorb the situation.
The ending also could leave more to be desired. Obviously I won’t spoil anything, but the ending seems like it is going to get interesting, but then takes a cliché route before cutting off and rolling credits entirely. You wish for all the set up the film had (or at least tried to have), it would give the audience more of a payoff.
Neeson and the rest of the cast do fine work, and Frank’s direction and screenplay are both nice and neat. The production value is also impressive, considering the film is set in New York on the eve of the Y2K crisis (because why not?). There just aren’t enough new things in “A Walk Among the Tombstones” to make it memorable.
I was never bored while watching, and Neeson does get to flash his BA badge a few times, however I just couldn’t help but think as I sat there and watch that all I really wanted was for Neeson to answer a cellphone and yell “give me back my daughter!” and before hopping on a plane to France.
Critics Rating: 6/10