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Movie Review: “A Walk Among the Tombstones”

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Image Credit: Jersey Films

I was hooked the moment I saw the first trailer for A Walk Among the Tombstones. Liam Neeson waging a one–man war on criminals in the vein of Taken? Check. Bad guys who need to be taken out in the worst way? Check. Scrappy young sidekick lending a hand? Check.

Our story opens in 1991 with New York detective Matt Scudder (Neesson), discussing his drinking habits with his partner. Scudder is an alcoholic and he’s not ashamed of it. He walks into the bar where the bartender hands him (what seems to be) his usual of two shots of bourbon with coffee and a newspaper. Two thugs attempt to rob the bar and kill the bartender when he refuses. Scudder stumbles, literally, into action and kills two of the thugs and critically wounds a third before returning to the bar.

Fast–forward to 1999 at the height of Y2K hysteria. Scudder is off the force and working as an unlicensed private detective who has been sober for eight years. He attends AA meetings and gives awkward speeches about the day he quit drinking. Enjoying dinner at a local diner, Scudder is approached by a fellow AA member, Peter Kristo (Boyd Holbrook), about taking a case for his brother Kenny (Dan Stevens). Scudder refuses initially after meeting Kenny because he is a drug trafficker (Kenny explains that there is a difference but not what it is). He changes his mind, however, after Kenny explains that his wife, Carrie (Razane Jammal) was brutally murdered after he paid a ransom for her safety. Scudder joins the hunt to find two psychotic killers (David Harbour and Adam David Thompson) planning to make a young girl their next victim. His investigation leads him to befriend a homeless youth named TJ (Brian “Astro” Bradley) who joins in the investigation despite Scudder’s attempts to warn him away.

Tombstones is hard to stomach if you’re sensitive to implied torture or sexual assault scenes which earned this film its R-rating. Ray and Albert are monsters delight in torturing others and are very eerie, especially during a scene with a bedridden would-be victim. Neeson makes Scudder a believable hero with a trauma that drives him to deliver justice even though he’s no longer a cop. The supporting cast turns in decent performances but no one stands compared to Neeson, Harbour, and Thompson due to limited screen time. Bradley’s TJ softens Scudder’s rough edges and give him a reason to keep moving.

The movie isn’t quite noir-style but uses a lot of shadows dim lighting to hide the killers’ faces for most of the movie. The writing is weak in some places but Neeson turns in a strong performance. A pair of revelations explains Scudder’s departure from the force along with the killers’ motivations, leading to a surprising showdown at the close of the film. Clocking in at just under two hours, I checked my watch when the story waned but I was invested by the end.

The verdict: See this movie but beware of the mature content.

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