A Walk Among The Tombstones: Movie Review
Cast: Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, Astro
Director: Scott Frank
Mixing 70s detective ethics and visuals with a bit of the ole Neeson Taken "special skills" DNA, A Walk Among The Tombstones (from the Lawrence Block books) is a curiously dark beast.
Neeson is Matt Scudder, a former hard-drinking cop on the New York streets in the 90s who's forced to turn his life around after a street shoot-out. Years later, with Y2K hanging over the nation's conscience, he's working as an unlicensed PI when he's approached by drug dealer Kenny (Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens) to help him solve the kidnapping and murder of his wife.
But, as Scudder investigates, he discovers a murkier world within.
A Walk Among The Tombstones is very much Taken, PI - but without the action.
Taking its cue from 70s detective noir films, writer / director Scott Frank's crafted together an at times nasty piece that feels like it's a mix of this genre and Scandi-noir. In among the grime and run-down city vistas, something insidious is lurking and Frank's brought a lo-fi low key feel to this which, at times, borders on plodding and a little dull.
So, to combat that, Frank's relied on Neeson's usual brand of stoically grim countenance and innate likeability to see you through the darkly grim proceedings. Neeson's watchable throughout - from the start when he's dispatching justice to those who've robbed a bar through to the final scenes of claustrophobic tension (via a series of talky sequences), you're simply drawn to the character and his innate struggle to make his way through the murk of the world. Though, it has to be said, at times, Neeson feels like he's sleepwalking given how relatively emotionless he is on screen, and how nasty the sociopaths are that are committing these crimes.
There's also some light relief in the form of a street kid TJ (Astro) whom Scudder decides to befriend and protect and with whom he shares some laconic banter. In among the Sam Spade references and bleakness, this ray of light is a welcome, if occasionally over-used, touch.
As the urban decay and moral decline reaches a peak, there's a final act shoot-out which feels symptomatic of the potboiler that Frank's tried to stir and which doesn't quite come together as it should (with Frank freeze-framing the action at moments to fit in with a voice-over about the 12 steps programme).
However, the slightly overlong A Walk Among The Tombstones doesn't quite hit the retro film noir highs it's going for - but it does prove to be a nostalgic reminder of what used to be.