A Walk Among the Tombstones is perfect for male viewers who secretly wish to be called a hero on the outside, but seriously know he can’t be one because he’s just too flawed inside. This movie is a must-see if you want Liam Neeson portray these conflicted feelings onscreen.
New York police officer Matthew Scudder (Liam Neeson) is similarly conflicted. He is hailed by colleagues for successfully gunning down street criminals yet he is also wracked by guilt for accidentally shooting a female child/bystander during his macho-slow-mo on-the-job killing spree.
To atone for his sins, Scudder resigns from the force and becomes a private investigator. To further cleanse himself of guilt, he does favors for people. In return, people do favors for him.
He seriously commits to one favor: hunt down two sick serial killers who victimize the wives and girlfriends of drug dealers.
The desperate drug dealer who first asked for Neeson’s help is played by British actor Dan Stevens (of Downton Abbey fame). When the daughter of another drug dealer hears of Scudder’s mission, he asks for the detective’s help too.
Atop this main plot are layers of sub-stories and characters designed to give depth to a thin and straightforward narrative.
When Neeson’s character, Scudder, starts his manhunt he meets homeless teen TJ (Brian 'Astro' Bradley) who helps him find the killers.
He also encounters authorities who ridicule his now worthless police badge.
Will he be able to capture the killers before they strike again?
Dubbed as a crime thriller, A Walk Among the Tombstones’ thrill, if there is any, is a slow burn. Audience interest is sustained thanks to the thrill of watching Liam Neeson give weight to a clichéd film noir-ish heroic character.
The tried and tired flashbacks used to explain the characters’ background didn’t help make the movie gripping, it only made it humdrum.
Liam Neeson’s smoldering presence gives this movie the gravitas it doesn’t quite deserve.
Plus, the subtle misogyny in the film is a turn-off. Female characters in the movie are idealized, devalued and literally discarded. It is odd that the movie spent time puffing up a gaunt storyline but didn’t add further details to the main female characters as they were only known as wives and girlfriends--and later on as dead wives and girlfriends. The oddest scene in the movie is when a supposed-to-be chilling meet between the killers and a would-be female under-aged victim became an inappropriately light-hearted moment when bubble gum music was suddenly piped in.
David Harbour, as one of the killers, straddles evil and humanity enough to make his performance compelling and memorable.
It was minutes before the movie ended when the pace picked up and things got interesting. The film also loosened up and even injected dark humor in tense situations.
Scudder’s alcohol addiction is the movie’s contrived effort to elevate itself beyond a crime drama. Though passable, this detail is forgettable.
A Walk Among the Tombstones is a slow crawl to a fairly entertaining end. Thanks to Liam Neeson, the journey was worth it.
Ed's Note: The "PEP Review" section carries the views of individual reviewers, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PEP editorial staff.