WYSIWYG is the design principle of “What You See is What You Get” and applies to this movie as much as The November Man. A Walk Among the Tombstones is currently playing in theaters.
A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014) – Rated R
“Private investigator Matthew Scudder is hired by a drug kingpin to find out who kidnapped and murdered his wife”
I first have to admit to being one of those people who enjoys that Neeson was well over fifty when he re-invented himself as an action star. He has been in a wide variety of films throughout his acting career and had some great roles before coming into his own as Ducard in Batman Begins and then chilling viewers as a man with a particular set of skills in Taken. He was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for Schindler’s List but lost to Tom Hanks for Philadelphia.
If you want to see Neeson as a modern private investigator then A Walk Among the Tombstones is for you, just don’t expect much more than that. At least it is filmed in New York so the locations are authentic.
I have a bit of a bone to pick with the trailer. There is an important piece of story that isn’t revealed until about two-thirds of the way through the movie. It is just backstory and as such not truly a spoiler but logically is important to reveal at that point. Well the reveal is in every trailer and commercial I have seen for this movie. Not just that but it was unnecessary as concealing would have involved shaving just a few seconds but I digress.
The movie is based on Lawrence Block’s novel of the same name. Block has written a number of novels featuring Matthew Scudder. 8 Million Ways to Die was filmed in 1986 with a young Jeff Bridges as Scudder. A Walk Among the Tombstones is wisely left in its setting (1999) as much of the plot would have to be reworked in this age of cellphones and a computer-phobic PI would be laughed at.
It is important to note that while this is being sold (somewhat) as a Liam Neeson action film, it is not. It is a mystery film with Scudder (Neeson) trying to figure out what happened in a kidnapping gone wrong. Director Scott Frank also adapted Block’s novel. The movie definitely proceeds along a literary pace with just a handful of action setpieces to showcase Neeson’s physicality.
It should also be noted that Tombstone’s R-rating is more than justified by the subject matter. The MPAA lists it as strong violence, disturbing images, language, and brief nudity. Many of the disturbing images are sexual assault related. I think that Frank did a good job of capturing the horror of the situation with the images instead of outright showing the assault, though honestly I don’t care for either in my films.
While I enjoyed Neeson and Dan Stevens as Kenny, the client who hires Scudder, no one else really stood out. Being primarily a mystery, the villains aren’t caught up with until late in the game and really don’t stand out as characters. Frank should definitely have hired some bigger guns for at least part of the movie.
As with yesterday’s Brosnan picture, A Walk Among the Tombstones is really only recommended if you have a particular affinity for the star. It is certainly a better film than The November Man but the setting comes across as dated instead of nostalgic. That said, I would welcome seeing Neeson as Scudder in further adaptations.