Review: A Walk Among the Tombstones
Gunshots blister at a deafening volume to open A Walk Among the Tombstones, as Liam Neeson’s officer Scudder runs through the streets firing at a trio of violent robbers. This suggests we’re in store for another Neeson action thriller, where a determine hero slays hoards of antagonists.
Instead, it’s a long span before another bullet is fired, as words and detective work are the weapons of choice. We skip ahead in time to 1999, eight years removed from what becomes a very telling incident for the now retired Scudder. He’ working as a private detective, and through a companion at AA, Scudder’s enlisted to help solve a murder.
A wealthy drug trafficker (Dan Stevens) is desperate, needing Scutter to track down the sadistic villains who kidnapped and killed his wife, mutilating her body while collecting a hefty ransom to boot.
Scudder’s past slowly reveals itself as his detective work finds him encountering T.J., a savvy street kid whose literary heroes are all private sleuths with cool names. He aids Scutter on his case, because sure, why not, and the pair come to learn that these psychopaths have a pattern and have plans lying in wait. Their relationship seems strangely more realistic than it probably should be, but Scudder’s lonely existence seems ripe for the entrance of a determined protégé.
This view of New York City is dark and dreary, set against a backdrop of Y2K scare. Scudder dons a long trench coat, never flinches, and has a disdain for violence and the drink. Written and directed by Scott Frank, Tombstones envisions Scutter as a dying breed of detective, a man with his own code, own demons, and no allegiances.
The aura surrounding him becomes more mythical during a ho-hum finale set at the titular cemetery, a meaningful graveyard trod open frequently. The depth of the film never hits this emotional core at which it’s aiming. Still, shave ten or fifteen minutes of the nearly two hour run time, and you’ve got a more serviceable, chilling mystery.