In the last few years, Liam Neeson has been known for having a particular set of skills in particular sets of films. Most of these (The Taken franchise, Unknown, Non-Stop) have been run-of-the-mill action flicks, with only The Grey rising above its genre class to be somewhat thought-provoking. With A Walk Among the Tombstones, Neeson finds himself in a genre film that gives him a similar character but with better shading.
A Walk Among the Tombstones is set in the Y2K craze of 1999. Neeson’s P.I., Matt Scudder, is a recovering alcoholic haunted by a past incident that caused him to leave the police force. He gets pulled into investigating a woman’s gruesome murder whose husband (Dan Stevens) is a drug kingpin. His investigation leads him to strike up a friendship with a homeless teenager named TJ (Brian “Astro” Bradley) who decides he wants to help out.
A lot of the way Neeson plays Scudder is familiar; he’s a no-nonsense, grizzled middle-aged man who is effective and efficient in his profession. The Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 step program is a nice shading of the character and his scarred past. It’s also a welcome change that Neeson’s character is as deft at disarming a situation with his words as he is in other films at disarming armed bad guys with his bare hands. The homeless teenager TJ is a helpful, but entirely clichéd role, a street-smart, wise-beyond-his-years teen who the world ignores but in whom Neeson sees potential and begins to grow protective of an begin to mentor (because when Liam Neeson is not showing off his particular set of skills, he is acting as a mentor to some understudy, whether Jedi, caped crusader, or actual crusaders). Their relationship is a good dynamic, even if it is clichéd.
This film also features another good turn for Downton Abbey alum Dan Stevens, who left that popular show for greener pastures. He plays the drug kingpin here, and if this turn and his performance in The Guest are any indication, he is not going to be the next David Caruso and jumping ship from Downton was a good move.
If you are a fan of detective crime dramas, there is a lot to like here. It’s apparently based on a series of novels, one of which was already adapted in 1986 starring Jeff Bridges. This one was good enough that it could pop up again. It is a better recurring character than the one Neeson portrays in the Taken franchise.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars