Main cast: Liam Neeson (Matthew Scudder), Dan Stevens (Kenny Kristo), Brian “Astro” Bradley (TJ), Boyd Holbrook (Peter), Sebastian Roché (Yuri), David Harbour (Ray), Eric Nelsen (Howie), and Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (Loogan)
Director: Scott Frank
A Walk Among the Tombstones is based on the novel of the same name by Lawrence Block. This movie is made to be a standalone flick, however, so all the stuff in the book that are carried over from previous books, such as Matthew Scudder’s relationship with Elaine Mardell, is removed completely.
Matthew Scudder is a former NYPD cop who, while drunk on the job, shot dead three men who robbed the bar he was in one fine day. He got commended for that, despite the fact that he also accidentally shot dead a young girl during that incident. Haunted by guilt, Matthew resigned, stopped drinking, and now works as an unregistered private investigator who does his thing for “gifts”. One evening, he is approached by Peter, a junkie who attends the same AA meetings as Matthew. His brother Kenny needs a favor.
It turns out that Kenny is a “drug trafficker” (as he’d like to be known as – he’s not a dealer, thank you very much) who wants Matthew to track down two men. Just the day before, these men kidnapped his wife. After leading him through a wild goose chase as Kenny tried to pay the ransom money, they returned his wife to her – in pieces, stashed into many, many garbage bags, along with a tape recording showing the sounds she made as these men performed their gruesome ceremony on her. Matthew is initially reluctant to get involved, but after trying to listen to the tape for a few seconds, he agrees to help Kenny track down the two men.
It turns out that these two men are at this for far longer than expected, having left a trail of victims all linked by the fact that they are involved with men who are in the drug business. And, while Matthew doesn’t realize it at that time, he’s actually in a race against time as those two men already have their eyes on their next victim and are making plans to abduct her.
A Walk Among the Tombstones is in many ways a standard and even generic serial killer take-down movie. All the clichés are here. The weary ex-cop vigilante-type hero with demons, the black sidekick figure with bonus “white man saves the black guy from his sad life” overtones thrown in, useless cops that don’t do anything, creepy pasty white boy stalker who still lives with his mother are just some of the more obvious ones archetypes running around here. Phones ring when I expect them to (usually when the person just finishes running around frantically – the villains always show good timing like that), those who are usually the sorts that die in this kind of movie dies as expected – really, the tropes are all out on full force. The messages about the evil in our hearts are as expected, delivered in the predictable heavy-handed manner that, in this particular movie, is also on the cheesy and hammy side.
This movie proves that the presence and number of overused clichés in a movie need not necessarily be a bad thing. however. A Walk Among the Tombstones is a very watchable and frequently chilling movie. A big part of this is the cast who manage to carry the show on their shoulders. Liam Neeson isn’t playing against type here, but his pulls off his usual stoic dude with a frown act here with adequate gravitas, while Dan Stevens, Boyd Holbrook, and even Brian Bradley, who went by Astro during the first season of The X-Factor US, put in some extra mile to make their roles more memorable than the otherwise tepid script would allow.
At the end of the day, this movie does what it set out to do, so it’s alright with me.