Retired Detective Matthew Scudder (Liam Neeson) is hired by Kenny (Dan Stevens), a drug kingpin, to investigate who killed his wife. After reluctantly taking on the case, Scudder realises that the disappearance of Kenny’s wife is random occurrence, and with the help (and occasional hinderance) of a young boy named TJ (Brian ‘Astro’ Bradley), Scudder must track down the killers before they strike again.
2008’s Taken was both a blessing and a curse for Liam Neeson. On the positive side, he emerged as an unlikely action hero, able to clear out a room of thugs with his ‘particular set of skills’. On the other hand, from then on, people expect him to be ‘that guy’ in every film he’s the lead star in. Granted, a lot of it comes down to him willingly accepting these similar roles, but the reception on the majority of his other films since 2008 has been negative – mostly because ‘he was better in Taken‘. On the initial trailer viewing for the not-so-catchily-titled A Walk Among The Tombstones, it seems like more of the same from Neeson: Growl/beat up goons/repeat. Refreshingly, this is not the case at all.
Tombstones is very much a pot boiling affair, with the story slowly unravelling over the course of its slightly bloated 2 hour runtime. Neeson fits the mould of Scudder’s moody character perfectly, but that’s down to the familiarity of him and that type of role – there’s a lot of grimacing from him and the sense that he’s given up on himself with nothing to lose. Dan Stevens, last seen in the superb The Guest, is once again brilliant here as Kenny. He’s not quite as mesmerising here as he was as ‘David’, but Stevens is without a doubt one of the brightest upcoming talents in Hollywood. Brian ‘Astro’ Bradley, a contestant on The X Factor USA in 2011, rounds off the solid casting as TJ, a homeless boy who’s both streetwise and ‘lifedumb’. The pairing of Scudder and TJ seems forced at first, but towards the end and with more revelations about Scudder’s past, it’s their differences that make the team work.
Stylistically, Tombstones has many noirish tropes. Obviously, Scudder’s anti-hero character is straight from the 40’s, but the persistent rain, flashbacks, ‘the big city’ and the bleak tone add to the style. It’s been said before but cannot be stressed enough: this is not Taken- the similarities stop at Liam Neeson being involved. Fans of the 2008 actioner expecting similar content will be sorely disappointed, and that’s unfair on Tombstones. Its pace is, ironically, more of a walk than Taken’s sprint, the story is meatier, albeit a little weak to stretch over 113 minutes, the ‘bad guys’ are more vicious and the overall experience is more satisfying.
Ultimately, A Walk Among The Tombstones is undoubtedly a stroll worth taking.