A Walk Among The Tombstones is written and directed by Scott Frank. He has little experience in directing but has an extensive back catalogue in writing with credits such as The Wolverine (2013) and Minority Report (2002). It is inspired by the novel of the same name written by Lawrence Block.
The film is set in the late 90’s in New York and features Liam Neeson as an unlicensed private detective, Matthew Scudder, who is asked by a fellow member of an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) group to visit his brother who needs his help. His brother, Kenny Kristo (Dan Stevens), turns out to be a drug dealer whose wife was kidnapped and killed despite him handing over $400k.
Scudder reluctantly takes on the case at the second time of asking after listening to a tape recording left by the kidnappers. He follows the trail of evidence that leads him to connect the Kristo case to others and a run-in with the police. An opportunity presents itself to contact the kidnappers directly and a dangerous game ensues.
I can’t excited about this film one way or the other. This is the weakest Liam Neeson performance I can ever remember. It is the onscreen definition of ‘dialing it in’. His interviewing technique is apathetic at best yet delivers stunning results. I’m sorry but I don’t believe for a second that investigating a serious crime is this easy. At it’s worst the dialogue is straight from a trashy detective novel that I thought only existed as a joke in other films.
The film attempts to make you feel sympathy for the Scudder character with a back story that involves alcoholism and an unfortunate shooting incident. The story employs a homeless teenager as a device for Scudder to find a path to redemption. Sadly the young boy who I think is played by Jon Goracy (who doesn’t feature in the main credits) only succeeds in getting into the back of the kidnappers van and generally being every irritating.
The two psycho bad guys are kind of interesting and are supposed to have a real nasty edge to them but its played down in the film and every time I thought the story was going to deliver a visceral edge it pulled back. The film attempts to up the ante by having the kidnappers take a young teenage girl but given her age and the 15 rating there is a sense the film makers were a little timid in pushing the darkness of the material.
There are sections of the film that are never explained such as the role of the police who show an interest in Scudder then back off completely. They seem solely concerned with being painted in a bad light with regards to the kidnappings but why? It was as if it was all far too difficult to explain so Mr Frank chose not to bother.
In an age were the cinema is so expensive this film isn’t good enough. Keep your money in your pockets. If you can, go and watch The Guest (2014), its a hundred times better and a lot more fun.