When one thinks of Liam Neeson, one thinks of revenge-fueled action cinema. Since 2008, the rugged actor has firmly cemented himself as the aging master of hand-to-hand combat and an expert at handling firearms. Taken was the film which got the ball rolling and that ball continues to roll with the Irish actor’s latest action/thriller A Walk Among the Tombstones. The film is more or less, your standard Neeson fare but with a few twists that keep things interesting. The body count isn’t too high as the film tends to focus more on story and the somewhat interesting mystery. Nevertheless, it is an average popcorn picture which will be sure to entertain even those who aren’t the biggest supporters of Neeson.
The film takes place in 1999 and follows Matthew Scudder (Neeson), a former New York police officer turned private investigator. He is summoned by a drug leader (Dan Stevens), whose wife has been kidnapped. Scudder’s particular skills are called on to handle the case and the deeper he gets into the case, the darker things become. Along the way, he gets help from T.J. (Brian “Astro” Bradley) a juvenile from the streets with a knack for technology and a desire to become a private eye, himself.
Based on Lawrence Block’s novel of the same name, A Walk Among the Tombstones is a tense crime thriller with shady characters, unique action sequences and a decent amount of violence. It is a film with familiar aspects but with a different take. Neeson is in fine form here and he anchors the film excellently. He has officially made a name for himself in the action film genre and his numerous forays in violent revenge movies are now commonplace and to be expected by audiences the world over.
As for the other actors in the film, young Brian “Astro” Bradley gives a memorable and fearless performance as T.J., a street tough who gets sucked into Scudder’s violent world. Together he and Neeson form a strong bond and partnership that is actually believable. Bradley holds his own in the film and his future as an actor seems very bright. The remainder of the film’s cast is an assortment of standard Hollywood B-listers and their work in A Walk Among the Tombstones is likely to be easily forgotten. Even the kidnappers seem like clones of Kevin Spacey’s character in Se7en. Because of their over-the-top and cliché performances, they rise no higher than that of simple mediocrity.
There is an unfortunate balance of pros and cons in A Walk Among the Tombstones. Liam Neeson is the film’s saving grace but the kidnapping story has been done many times before and better in the past. The action sequences seem a bit forced and at times, ridiculous. Writer-director Scott Frank (The Wolverine, Minority Report)’s screenplay is dull and missing a spark. He shot the film well but that doesn’t really make up for the lame dialogue he’s given the actors. I’m sure Frank meant well when adapting Lawrence Block’s novel and the film is a adequate effort. It just falls somewhat short and sadly, even Neeson couldn’t save this standard thriller film.
A Walk Among the Tombstones will be released theatrically on September 19th, 2014