Twitter Plot Summary: Scudder is a private eye, tasked with investigating the kidnappings of women that may be connected.
Five Point Summary:
1. Big, loud gun shots.
2. Random homeless kid.
3. Another kidnapping.
4. The Liam Neeson telephone call.
5. Things are getting very dark.
Any concerns about A Walk Among The Tombstones being yet another Taken clone should be disregarded immediately. Yes, it stars Liam Neeson, and yes it does feature him making a telephone call to the bad guys, but it’s there that the similarities end. Neeson’s character, Matthew Scudder, is an unlicensed private eye, which basically means he can take jobs that have a more morally ambiguous background. Such is the case here, involving drug dealers, a pair of perverted villains and a man – Scudder – investigating the case with no emotional attachment to the participants or the outcome.
The plot and presentation are such that it could potentially be an incredibly difficult film to watch, but this also helps to push events away from the almost comic book narrative of the Taken franchise and does more than enough to make it absolutely clear that this is a completely adult-oriented thriller. Anyone expecting popcorn action and silliness should keep this in mind before viewing. It’s a dark, disturbing and overall serious film, and it soon becomes clear why Neeson took the role.
Dan Stevens appears to be branching out quite successfully from his breakout role in Downton Abbey, this year alone taking on the guise of a mysterious visitor in The Guest and now appearing as a drug dealer whose wife is kidnapped and killed by the perverted pair. Talking of which, the bad guys are truly unpleasant, lacking the moral compass that makes most of the world go round. Their objectives are based around financial gain, and there are no limits to their depraved nature.
There is some light relief from Scudder’s interactions with a homeless boy who has Sickle Cell Anaemia, with the boy wanting to help Scudder in his investigation and Scudder reluctantly agreeing, whilst simultaneously showing the kid how he can better himself. Their relationship is an interesting one, and one that doesn’t feel overly forced or unusual.
The pre-millennium setting provides many benefits, the convenience of our current technology was still some distance away in 1999 and means the characters have to resolve their problems in what feels like a more old-fashioned method. Scudder can’t just whip out a smartphone to do his research, which is another aspect that works in the film’s favour. It adds to the grittiness, the reality of the situation, more so when one of the kidnappers, the more talkative Ray, sees a news report about the Millennium Bug and suggests that people are afraid of the wrong things. In terms of the moments of action, the gun shots and violence feel weighty and real, and they have an impact all of their own.
Neeson may not have the best of grasps on the New York accent, but otherwise he provides a solid central performance and much of the success of the film relies on him providing gravitas and a certain level of world weariness. Suffice to say, he is entirely successful in this respect, so his occasionally dodgy accent is less of an issue. In an ideal world the further adventures of Scudder could prove to be an interesting franchise, particularly if subsequent efforts are as accomplished as this.