James Canellos ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Based on all the people Liam Neeson has killed in the past decade, this title could easily refer to the slew of characters who got in his way. While actors like Matthew McConaughey and Steve Carell are reinventing themselves in a more serious light, Neeson’s career reincarnation has morphed from incredibly serious theatrical performer to badass aging action hero. With films like Taken, Battleship, and Non-Stop it has become clear that Neeson would ride this new wave of success for as long as he could. His streak continues with Scott Frank’s A Walk Among the Tombstones, which has a surprising amount of brain to go with Neeson’s brawn.
This 1999-set thriller follows private investigator Matthew Scudder as he tries to unravel the murder of a drug kingpin’s wife and prevent future attacks. For a while, Scott Frank does a terrific job at keeping his audience on edge and gives the impression that Scudder could be the next Dirty Harry. Especially due to the blood-splattering excitement of the opening scene, you can’t help but wonder when Scudder is going to ask if his perps feel lucky. However, the film begins to get so wrapped up in its own demented story that it could easily pass for a long, darker episode of The Equalizer. Just when you think the story’s going to get out of that rut, Scudder makes an all too foreseeable and out-of-character decision that does foil some of the film’s integrity.
Frank’s blunt and sharp writing embellishes his knack for straying away from most cliches and helps this film stand out among Neeson’s previous badass efforts. Frank is too clever of a writer to allow Scudder to be a human killing machine; in fact, he doesn’t rely on one fight scene after another in this film. Scudder isn’t the smartest Private Eye, nor the smoothest- he’s just good enough to get ahead and strong enough to take on certain people. In fact, it is aspects like these that make Tombstones feel like the anti-Taken film. This film is advocating against gun violence and shows the consequences of a character who is obsessed with using it too much.
Neeson’s tortured shell of a former cop is one of his better performances in recent memory, and he seems to be enjoying himself more as Matthew Scudder than he ever has in his past tough guy ventures. It doesn’t hurt that there is a slew of memorably creepy characters that come into orbit, most notably David Harbour’s sadistic killer and Eric Nelsen’s conflicted groundskeeper. If Frank continues this pace, I see no reason why Matthew Scudder shouldn’t return to solve another mystery.
Overall Grade: B