Liam Neeson returned to his element Friday with the release of “A Walk Among the Tombstones.” It took the number two spot this weekend bringing in a moderate $13 million.
This movie is based on the novel by Lawrence Block of the same name, which is one in a series of Matthew Scudder novels. The production team has already defended rumors that this movie is not another in the “Taken” series. Director and writer Scott Frank does an excellent job bringing this novel to life. Visually you are brought into the gritty, seedy world of murder, death and redemption all the while bringing out the best in each of your actors and the story.
(Spoiler Alert: Discussion of plot below)
This movie follows the story of disgraced former alcoholic NYPD detective turned unlicensed private investigator Matthew Scudder as he searches for murders. A fellow AA member seeks his help for his brother, drug dealer Kenny Kristo (Dan Stevens), whose wife has been kidnapped. Matthew hasn’t been asked to help in order to find Kenny’s wife though but in order to track down the killers for revenge. When he refuses, Kenny shows up unannounced with a recording of his wife’s death from the killers and Matthew reluctantly accepts and begins to investigate.
Neeson is perfectly suited for this character having already proven his ability to carry both action (“Taken”, “Non-Stop”) and dramatic (“The Grey”) movies. This movie fuses mystery and suspense perfectly with drama. Neeson, despite the unperfected American accent, quietly works his way through this rather cleverly scripted plot all the while keeping audiences engaged and waiting to see what will happen next. His smooth confidence and ability to look badass and brooding gives audiences the Neeson they have come to expect.
As the story progresses, Matthew finds himself in a library where he meets TJ (Brian “Astro” Bradley), an unlikely pairing of a homeless youth, to help him investigate and overall serves to keep Matthew humanized in the eyes of the audience. Matthew discovers that Kenny’s wife’s murder isn’t an isolated incident and fears more are to come unless he is able to discover who is committing these crimes.
TJ gives Matthew’s character heart and purpose rather than him simply working to mindlessly and gruesomely find killers. This is clever story telling offering clear distinctions for audiences setting up for them the good and bad characters. Bradley former “X Factor” contestant turned actor doesn’t need a stand out performance next to Neeson. His character serves a distinct purpose for Matthew yet Bradley has an enduring quality that draws audiences in. He is believable as this overzealous kid with a dream because that is exactly what he is.
Matthew’s investigation leads him to a cemetery groundskeeper, Jonas Loogan, played eerily well by Ólafur Darri Ólafsson who helps him identify the true murders Ray (David Harbour) and Albert (Adam David Thompson). Loogan describes these murders as “not human.” They are ruthless killers that care about nothing but blood and death. Harbour is particularly blood chilling as his cold, detached portrayal of this killer. When another drug dealer has a family member, his child this time, kidnapped, Matthew comes in to stop these evil monsters once and for all and hopefully save the little girl in time.
Keeping from falling into the realm of the typical race against time to save innocents from a crazy murder, this movie cleverly mixes suspense and intelligence. It has a clear objective and plan for each character, event and scene, despite that oddly placed and never mentioned again FBI scene, which speaks to the overall themes. It gives audiences the ability to see an actor, Neeson, in a familiar role but frame it in a new way, not typically seen with this genre. This movie has all the heart, drama and suspense to make it fit in both the crime thriller and drama categories without lacking in either. Even if you wait for this one on DVD/Blu-ray, it is one worth seeing.