Director: Scott Frank
Starring: Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, David Harbour, Adam David Thompson, Eric Nelsen
Taken completely changed Liam Neeson into the the gruff badass we have all come to know and love. His latest film, A Walk Among the Tombstones (AWATT), is what we have come to expect from Neeson in recent years, with a little something extra. There is more to AWATT than just Neeson kicking butt and being generally incredibly cool.
Based on the novel of the same name by Lawrence Block, Neeson plays ex-cop Matt Scudder, who is now working as an unlicensed private detective. Plagued by a shooting in his past which forced him to retire, Scudder is hired by a drug kingpin to find out who kidnapped and murdered his wife. He discovers that there have been similar murders in the past and his investigations lead him to some rather dark and twisted individuals.
AWATT is more along the lines of The Grey, which remains to this day his best work over the past decade, than Taken. It’s much darker, much more thought-provoking than any of his previous hard-man films, and Neeson actually has a lot more acting to do here.
He still delivers the phone speech and still punches, shoots and kicks dudes as much as he can. Yet there are elements of the film; the dark depressions, the alcoholism, the loneliness, which are well treated in AWATT, and Neeson does do a good job at portraying those elements in a believable manner. Neeson’s performance isn’t the problem here, it’s the fact that the film ends up being slightly formulaic and, slightly televisual.
Despite the dark undertones of the film, director Scott Frank never really manages to get it beyond just a brooding and grainy looking episode of Wire in the Blood. At some points you do feel that less would have been more. There is way too much gore for a film of this kind and its depiction of women, as being constant damsels in distress, does run a bit thin.
To add to this, the killers unfortunately become very cliché by the final act. However, the imagery is compelling and Neeson’s antics keep the film ticking over nicely.
Overall, A Walk Among the Tombstones is enjoyable and marks an interesting new chapter for Neeson’s recent image as the all kicking, all punching and all shooting elderly statesman, should it continue. He has proved that older action actors don’t have to resort to appearing in The Expendables franchise to stay afloat, still delivering strong performances in interesting action films.