Liam Neeson has made the best career choices of any actors in recent years. Not all his films have been fantastic and he plays very similar roles or at least roles that seem to cast him as a similar style of character but you can’t disagree that he has chosen interesting movies, even if the final product doesn’t pay off.
Taken reinvented the actor as a rugged, aged action hero who is out of his depth but able to handle himself. Unknown, Taken sequels and The Grey, amongst other similar roles, have followed but none have been run of the mill action movies and all have had a story element that makes them worth a watch.
A Walk Among the Tombstones isn’t different in that respect. Neeson’s character is a man with specific skills, this time a detective for hire, and he can hold himself quite well. He isn’t the action hero that you get in Taken and he isn’t being pursued and fighting for his life, like in Unknown, but he does have to do some heavy lifting and Neeson demonstrates that even at 62, the Irish-born actor can still battle with the best of them.
The story is an interesting one. It follows the murder of drug lord’s kidnapped wife and because of his criminal past, the drug lord has to hire from outside usual circles. Neeson’s character, although reluctant to work for a criminal, is persuaded to help stop the gruesome and sadistic killers. The film then follows his attempts to find the killers and stop them killing again.
It’s a detective movie. It isn’t an action packed, shoot-fest which sees Neeson dispatching villain after villain and because of this, the movie can seem to drag. The story has no pace and instead decides to drip-feed story elements and dangle slight red-herrings. There isn’t really an investigation though, there isn’t a whodunnit to be solved, just a case of following Neeson as he looks for the criminals.
The criminals themselves have potential. They are introduced and developed as cruel, sadistic and monstrous characters, with a witness going to extreme attempts to ensure he isn’t “caught” by them. This is done really well but lacks the actual pay-off and when we do finally come to face to face with the bad guys, they become very generic and don’t live up to their excellent hype.
Some characters do get time to shine. Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens demonstrates his acting credentials as the kidnapped girls husband and conveys menacing and vengeful quite well. A small stand-out star is the “kid from the street” played by “Astro,” made famous by an American talent show. He does very well, sparring against Liam Neeson and getting some quite hefty dramatic scenes of his own.
These scenes and characters don’t save the film from plodding in the middle, building to a very tense and scary finale. You can see what the movie potentially could have been, especially if the focus had been more on the killers and less on Neeson following a clear trail which left little for the audience to engage with.
Overall, A Walk Among the Tombstones demonstrates why Neeson is the go to actor for aging hero but the story doesn’t match his casting. The movie starts strongly but loses its way in the middle, saving itself slightly for a tense and creepy finale. Some other cast stand-out, particularly newcomer Astro, but it doesn’t save the movie from being quite average.
Rating – 3
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)