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article imageReview: ‘A Walk Among the Tombstones’ is recognizable with some upgrades Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Sep 22, 2014 in Entertainment
‘A Walk Among the Tombstones’ features Liam Neeson in a familiar role, but with the support of a more robust script than in previous outings.
It's unlikely that anyone would have predicted Liam Neeson would have a second career as an action star at this stage in his life, yet he's one of the most popular butt-kicking men on screen today. It's true that most of the movies share a common theme, but that doesn't seem to deter theatre goers. Neeson reprises his now standard role in A Walk Among the Tombstones, but this film may have a little more substance than the others.
Scudder (Neeson) is a retired cop working as an unlicensed private detective. When he's offered a job to find two sadistic killers, he initially refuses. But he hasn't lost his desire for justice and the knowledge that the killers have struck before and will again is too much to ignore.
This is a cat-and-mouse narrative, in which the pursuer is an old school tough guy and the vermin are a plague on humanity. Scudder wants to keep his distance because of the illegal occupations of the ransom targets, but the brutality of the murders pushes him overcome his aversion. His investigation is low-key and low-tech, asking questions and scanning old newspaper stories on microfiche.
Though it's effective in demonstrating Scudder's heart, the secondary story about a young, homeless artist is just fluff mixed in with the hard-core narrative. He befriends T.J. (Astro) and inadvertently becomes his guardian as the teen becomes enamoured with the P.I. business and tries to force Scudder into mentoring him. He plays a significant role in the conclusion, but most of his involvement up to that point is just a distraction from the horrors of the case.
Unlike most of the other kidnapping movies Neeson has helmed, the bad guys in this picture aren't just anonymous thugs in it for the money. They're a team and they enjoy hurting their victims more than stealing the money they extort from their loved ones. For them it's a game and they always have the upper hand. This elevation in criminal makes Scudder's pursuit a bit more interesting than just breaking down doors and busting heads. It requires finesse. Scudder must retrace their crimes and put together the pieces that will reveal their identity. All the while the audience is consistently reminded of their psychotic lack of compassion. But the anticipated phone conversation where Neeson lays down the law for the killers is still spine-tingling.
This film has a bit more substance thanks to the inclusion of villains with personality and Neeson's gritty yet damaged ex-cop persona.
Director: Scott Frank
Starring: Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens and David Harbour
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