Review – A Walk Among the Tombstones – 3/5

Director: Scott Frank

Certificate: 15

Cast: Liam Neeson, ‘Astro’, David Harbour

Running Time: 1hr 53 min

Plot: Matt Scudder (Liam Neeson) is an ex-NYPD private detective who works the graveyard shift, ahem, solving crimes for people that don’t want the police involved. First of a potential series, being based off one of seventeen Matt Scudder pulp novels.

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A Walk Among the Tombstones is the type of gutsy but predictable detective film one has come to expect from Hollywood’s ceaseless production line. It reeks of remake, and in many ways is comparable to David Fincher’s softcore translation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo or the Americanised answer to Danish-noir series The Killing. Europeans, Nordics especially, do this kind of thing better, but that’s not to say A Walk Among the Tombstones isn’t still entirely watchable; it very much is, even in spite of its one-dimensional protagonist, thanks to the gruff characterisation from Liam Neeson. Matt Scudder (Neeson) is a P.I operating above the parameters of the very law which he used to upkeep until his drunken corruption brought about a self-awakening and his resignation from the force. Now a sober, sobering detective, Scudder sweeps the streets for work that the police can’t or won’t handle, and in this particular case he agrees to aid heroin traffickers in the finding/killing of a pair of sexually perverted murderers.

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As in Taken, Non-Stop, and (kind of) Clash of the Titans, Liam Neeson does the most serious, trailer-worthy acting over a telephone line, as he ups the stakes and brings the brinksmanship to the dirty killers that have been running rings around Scudder’s hapless drug lord clients. Neeson has to work hard where the screenplay adaptation of Lawrence Block’s novel does not, and there is a painfully forced subplot between Scudder and a homeless hoodlum known as TJ (played by Astro from, um, X-Factor USA) which nearly puts the film in an early grave. Talking of graves, there is a shootout in a cemetery which mixes footage of the firefight – which is regularly freeze-framed in order to… impress us? – with Scudder’s Alcoholics Anoymous meeting. It’s really dumb. In conclusion, the film is average but worth seeing, as will probably be the case with Neeson’s upcoming picture Taken 3.

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