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Movie Review: A Walk Among the Tombstones

By Edited Oct 22, 2015 3 6
A Walk Among the Tombstones



Certificate 15, 113 minutes

Director: Scott Frank

Stars: Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, David Harbour

A Walk Among the Tombstones is based on the book of the same name by Lawrence Block. The film starts in 1991, when slightly corrupt New York Police Department detective Matt Scudder (Liam Neeson) is off duty drinking in a bar where cops don't have to pay for their drinks. Two men try to rob the place, shooting the barman in the process. Scudder chases them outside, where there is a third in a car. He shoots all three of them in the process of stopping them, two of them fatally, but, in the process, an innocent bystander gets hit by a stray bullet.

A Walk Among the Tombstones
Eight years later in 1999 and Scudder is now a former cop and an unlicensed private investigator. He does people favours and, in return, they give him gifts. A fellow Alcoholics Anonymous member wants him to go and see his brother, Kenny (Dan Stevens, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, The Guest). The brother, who describes himself as a drug trafficker, wants help as his wife was kidnapped the previous day. The kidnappers asked for $1 million, but Kenny said he only had $400,000. He paid the ransom, but the kidnappers killed his wife anyway - the inference is quite gruesomely - before leaving the pieces for him to find. Kenny wants Scudder to find the men and bring them to him. In return, he offers a "gift" of $40,000. Scudder initially refuses but, after listening to the tape of what happened to the wife, agrees to help.

Scudder discovers that the kidnappers had done it before, again targeting drug dealers, and therefore will likely do it again. On one job there were three of them, but the third, Loogan (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, The Last Witch Hunter), did not participate in what happened and is terrified that the other two will kill him. The kidnappers, Ray (David Harbour) and Albert (Adam David Thompson) do target another drug dealer, but this time they take the fourteen year old daughter. Given their record to date, getting her back alive and in one piece is extremely unlikely.

For the kidnappers, the money is only part of it, and possibly not the most important part. They do want the money, but they have no intention of giving back their victims when they can have so much "fun" with them instead. Ray and Albert actively enjoy inflicting pain, torture and eventual death on those they kidnap, which is a very important part of it for them. As a result of this, there are some unpleasant scenes, even if the worst takes place off screen.

Along the way Scudder meets up with a young street kid, TJ (Brian 'Astro' Bradley), and the relationship that develops between the two is a nice complement to what is otherwise quite a dark film. Ray and Albert are extremely unpleasant, completely unlikable people who enjoy inflicting pain and suffering. At no point are you definitely certain that the latest kidnap victim is going to be recovered - it's the kind of film where it could have gone one way or another. Liam Neeson's character isn't quite the action figure he has been in some of his recent films, but the character seems competent enough at his job and at violence when it comes to it, if somewhat sad. Some of the characters do seem a little clichéd, particularly the Russian drug trafficker who looks like a Russian drug trafficker, but it holds together well. Thoroughly bad bad guys, a flawed hero good guy, and those who are being preyed on, whilst not themselves criminals, are the loved ones of those that are. Quite a bit of walking, talking and researching, as Scudder tracks down the kidnappers. A Walk Among the Tombstones is an enjoyable, above average thriller.

A Walk Among the Tombstones egdcltd 2014-09-19 3.5 0 5
A Walk Among the Tombstones
Amazon Price: $29.98 $9.59 Buy Now
(price as of Oct 22, 2015)



A Walk Among the Tombstones, Movie Tie-in Edition (Matthew Scudder)
Amazon Price: $7.99 $3.79 Buy Now
(price as of Oct 22, 2015)


Sep 25, 2014 6:18pm
I just saw this movie last weekend. I love Liam Neeson. I would have liked to see more of a backstory as to why the bad guys wanted to hurt people so much, more than just a sick reason to inflict pain. Neeson seems to be taking a lot of roles about personal redemption lately.
Oct 1, 2014 2:21am
True, Neeson's character in Non-Stop was also flawed. With the bad guys, there may not have been a backstory - they just could be sick. Although it's possible there is one in the book.
Oct 1, 2014 10:42am
Yes, maybe they were just crazy. I read a lot but never tried Lawrence Block. Maybe I will now.
Oct 1, 2014 12:34pm
I'd never even heard of him before this. I may get a copy of this book to see what the differences are.

Regarding people who do bad things, I'm not sure they all need a story, and therefore a justification, as to why they became bad, which does seem a popular concept these days in media. In real life, it seems some don't have a justification or a reason - they're simply born evil.
Oct 31, 2014 3:48pm
I like anything with Liam Neeson, and this sounds like a winner!
Nov 1, 2014 7:32am
I was never that familiar with much of his earlier work, but post Star Wars I've seen a lot. He's also a surprisingly convincing action start - I think he has the right type of presence, even if he lacks the muscularity of some of the others.
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