The central character, Matthew Scudder, has previously appeared on screen in 1982’s 8 Million Ways to Die. Portrayed by Jeff Bridges, the character’s cinematic debut didn’t register with that era’s audience. Hopefully this second big screen outing, set in 1999, will do justice to a potentially long-running franchise.
Matthew Scudder (Liam Neeson) is a former cop turned private eye. A recovering alcoholic, he constantly searches for challenging cases. When asked by local drug lord Kenny (Dan Stevens) to find those responsible for the kidnap and murder of his wife, Matthew reluctantly accepts. Searching for clues, he discovers the kidnappers have previous form with equally deadly consequences. With danger at every turn, Scudder’s life hangs in the balance as the hunt intensifies.
A Walk Among the Tombstones is unafraid in delving into dark spaces. Exploring evil that men do, Scudder doggedly survives in a grim world. His shady past matches the murky dealings of his clients, adding to the constant atmosphere of dread. Whilst the story is occasionally prone to repetitive exposition, Scott Frank’s direction successfully conveys its grittiness. You receive a true sense of the danger Scudder faces and the dodgy moral codes everyone lives by.
Despite a somewhat far-fetched conclusion, A Walk Among the Tombstones wouldn’t have worked without Neeson’s presence. He holds the movie together with a performance steeped in weary reality. Neeson has turned into a reliable mainstay of commercial movies with his newest role cementing this. He is aided well by his co-stars who embody their sleazy roles with ease. The cinematography of a pre-21st Century New York effectively conjures the distant past continually haunting Scudder.
In spite of some short-comings, A Walk Among the Tombstones is a generally engaging thriller. Riding much on Neeson’s coattails, hopefully it builds towards further instalments of a frequently intriguing character.
Reviewed by Patrick Moore
Rating out of 10: 7