A Walk Among the Tombstones is an uneven crime-drama but its saving grace is with Liam Neeson who continues his success after his career resurgence following Taken. The story itself doesn’t quite work and the third act is a bit on the clichéd side, however, this might be worth a rental especially if you don’t mind a throwback thriller to the 1970s and 80s (think Charles Bronson).
A Walk Among the Tombstones
Genre(s): Crime, Drama, Suspense
Universal | R – 114 min. – $34.98 | January 13, 2015
THE MOVIE – 3.25/5
Note: This review contains spoilers about the plot. If you don’t want intricate details, please skip this section.
A Walk Among the Tombstones is a dark crime-drama, slow in pace but keeps one’s interest thanks to Liam Neeson who, save for one key scene, manages to stay away from his role in the Taken franchise. Having said that, it does plod along at a leisure pace to the point where it did begin to wear out its welcome.
The story, for some arbitrary reason, is set in 1999 where, eight years prior, Detective Matt Scudder (LIAM NEESON), had gunned down three robbers who had murdered a bartender… at the bar where he was drinking. Having quit the force, revealed later as to why, Scudder now is, I suppose, like the Equalizer helping out as an unlicensed private eye.
Fellow AA member Peter Kristo (BOYD HOLBROOK) who enlists Scudder’s help for his brother, Kenny (DAN STEVENS) whose wife was kidnapped and in spite of paying the $400,000 ransom, killed her in the most gruesome way possible. Now Kenny wants Scudder to investigate and track down her killers so they may face vigilante justice as Kenny, as Scudder correctly deduced, was a drug trafficker. Initially Scudder declines but after Kenny reveals the sordid tale and how his wife died, Scudder reluctantly agrees to take the case.
What follows is your old school gumshoe crime-drama with Scudder hunting down leads which takes him to other leads and so on and so forth.
At the library, and with the help of a homeless young man named T.J. (ASTRO), investigates other murders with similar M.O.s, one involving cutup body parts strewn in a pond at a cemetery while others were discovered in a garbage container. Scudder interviews the groundskeeper (OLAFUR DARRI OLAFSSON) and given the story but suspects something more and with more seemingly tedious groundwork, finds the keepers’ hideout at the top of an apartment complex which so happens to be across the street where that victim lived with her drug dealer boyfriend. He reveals that he helped the two killers and provides valuable clues to their identities…
A Walk Among the Tombstones is a good vehicle for Liam Neeson who, courtesy of the breakout success of Taken, has enjoyed somewhat of a resurgence in a starring role, including last year’s Non-Stop which had a dumb payoff but the ride was enjoyable at least. Here, it’s certainly a different kind of role… that is until the third act when he taps into his Bryan Mills persona and goes bad ass while on the phone opposite a sadistic killer played by character actor David Harbour.
Having said that, and through no fault of Neeson’s, in fact he’s the saving grace, the film does plod along with little momentum or even gritty style. The movie was helmed, and adapted, by Scott Frank a perhaps up-and-comer whose directorial debut was The Lookout, a fantastic crime-drama. And while Frank, with his DP Mihai Malaimare Jr. (The Master), does give some nice atmosphere behind the mystery, the story itself doesn’t quite gel and delves into a quasi clichéd finale.
Interestingly enough, this isn’t Scudder’s first foray on the big screen, first appearing in 1986’s 8 Million Ways to Die starring Jeff Bridges as the main character. From what I can tell, it wasn’t well received and based on Tombstones’ box office, I doubt we’ll be seeing Neeson portray the character again either.
As a side, and perhaps those out there can explain, but it seemed arbitrary setting the film in 1999 when, outside of a couple references to the Y2K bug scare, it wasn’t really necessary and served no purpose to the story itself. I suppose the book took place during that time, but it seems this could’ve easily taken place today.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 1.5/5
This release comes with a matted, titled embossed, slip cover. Inside is a standard DVD Copy as well as a code for the Digital Copy (iTunes and UV).
Unfortunately, but unsurprising considering the lackluster box office, this was only given a couple of featurettes:
A Look Behind the Tombstones (12:07; HD) is a basic making-of featurette with interviews by members of the cast (including Neeson) and crew as they discuss the plot and characters. Nothing enthralling but not entirely thin either.
Matt Scudder: Private Eye (6:26; HD) is a featurette on the character Matt Scudder from Lawrence Block’s books and how it got adapted into a feature film and how he is portrayed by Liam Neeson. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Universal Studios Home Entertainment releases A Walk Among the Tombstones presented in its original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio and a 1080p high-definition transfer. For the most part, this is a nice looking video where details are sharp to the point where you can see the lines in Neeson’s (corduroy?) jacket. Colors are well balanced with good skin tones and don’t appear to be oversaturated save maybe for the opening which takes place years earlier from the main plotline.
AUDIO – 4.5/5
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track meanwhile is effective providing for clear and crisp dialogue but the bulk of this track’s depth is with the (few) action scenes where gunshots have a decent oomph behind them and the hand-to-hand fight scenes has some impact behind them. It’s nothing noteworthy or reference quality, but more than efficient for the genre.
OVERALL – 3.25/5
Overall, A Walk Among the Tombstones is an uneven crime-drama but its saving grace is with Liam Neeson who continues his success after his career resurgence following Taken. The story itself doesn’t quite work and the third act is a bit on the clichéd side, however, this might be worth a rental especially if you don’t mind a throwback thriller to the 1970s and 80s (think Charles Bronson). The Blu-ray released by Universal does have excellent video and audio transfers but the bonus material is lackluster.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.