A Walk Among The Tombstones
Director: Scott Frank
Starring: Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, David Harbour
113 mins; Class 15;
KRS Releasing Ltd

In A Walk Among the Tombstones, Liam Neeson has finally found a story he can really sink his teeth into, following his career change from dramatic actor to action star and his appearances in underwhelming films such as the Taken series and Non-Stop.

Neeson stars as alcoholic-with-a-past former NYPD cop Matt Scudder, who now earns a living working as an unlicensed private investigator.

He is hired by drug trafficker Kenny Kristo (Dan Stevens) to find the men who kidnapped and brutally murdered his wife.

As Scudder digs deeper into the ugly case, he discovers that Kristo is not the only dealer who has been targeted, and in order to find out who’s behind the killings, he must break even more laws.

A Walk Among the Tombstones is a harsh and gritty modern noir, set in New York pre-9/11, where the bad guys are two fairly ordinary-looking yet severely twisted men preying on vulnerable women.

It is a film that portrays quite a bit of violence – with a couple of scenes involving women that are extremely uncomfortable to watch and walk the fine line into gratuitousness. Yet, it boasts an ensemble of strong and well-written characters brought to life by Neeson and his co-stars.

An excellent suspense thriller

Director Scott Frank, who adapted the novel by Lawrence Block, has crafted an excellent suspense thriller. And even if, it must be said, the story unfolds in a predictable manner, each scene is concisely executed.

The focus is more on words than action; the script tells the story with little padding as Scudder gets closer to his prey, eschewing modern technology. The character hates computers and mobile phones.

The ‘flawed hero with a past’ is the basis of many a story, and Scudder is definitely that.

But he is more than just a character sketch. He is an appealing character and Neeson finally rediscovers his gravitas and depth.

He avoids the clichés that dog the cardboard shoot-first-ask-questions-later characters he has played of late. He adds many layers to the complexities that form Scudder’s make-up. This is a tough and brutal man, yet he easily befriends a homeless kid.

Despite the dark world he lives in, he refuses to carry a weapon – until absolutely necessary.

Scudder struggles between his inner demons which forever haunt him. The problems brought with this new case and the worry lines etched across the actor’s forehead tell a dozen stories; it is great to see him back in solid form.

Downton Abbey fans may finally forgive Dan Stevens for leaving the show, if this is the type of role he is going to be taking on.

There is no trace of the show’s character Matthew Crawley at all and the actor reveals a dark and nasty streak in his Kenny.

He is a harsh man and a criminal. But under the steely blue eyes and determined grimace is a man in pain over the loss of his wife, so that earns him some sympathy points.

Ólafur Darri Ólafsson earns kudos as an edgy cemetery groundskeeper Scudder encounters during his investigation, while Brian Astro Bradley shares great chemistry with Neeson as TJ, the homeless young artist who befriends Scudder.

A scene where Scudder shows TJ how to use a gun is pricelessly dark and funny.

A Walk Among the Tombstones is just one of the books written by Block in the Scudder series.

A new film franchise would be most welcome.

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