A Walk Among the Tombstones

There is no doubt that Liam Neeson is a bona fide movie star. The proof is in the numbers and beyond. Not only can he open a film to respectable box office receipts, he can also help turn what might have been a pretty bad movie into something watchable. He does so in his newest movie, “A Walk Among the Tombstones” opening today, September 19.

Based on the best selling novel, “A Walk Among the Tombstones” is set in New York City in 1999. Matthew Scudder (Neeson) is a former NYPF cop and is now a private investigator who sometimes does “favors” for people and they give him a “gift” in return. His newest client wants him to find the men who kidnapped and killed his wife, even after he paid the ransom money. Scudder will find out that there is a lot more to the case than meets the eye.

The movie was written and directed by Scott Frank. He has a very long list of screenplays on his resume that includes, “Marley & Me”, “Get Shorty” and “Out of Sight” for which he received an Oscar nomination. He absolutely deserves another nomination consideration for this script. It is one of the best written scripts this year. Every character has their own voice and greatly developed, it has some fantastically written dialogue and he constantly follows the rule of “Show, don’t tell” with perfection.

That being said, Scott Frank’s list of projects he has directed is quite small and spread out. After seeing “A Walk Among Tombstones” it is understandable that production executives are hesitant to let him sit in the director’s chair. Many writers go on to direct their scripts and some go on to become brilliant directors while others do not. Frank falls into the latter category. He could not do too much wrong, given how strong the script is, but sometimes his faults are so glaring that they can take you out of the movie. A couple of quick examples is that there is one scene where a nurse puts drops in someone’s eyes, but they are clearly pantomiming it. In another scene, a character gets their face beaten pretty badly. We know they are wearing makeup to show their bruises, but they go on to have a normal conversation and even touch their face, but never wincing in pain, which anyone surely would be at that moment. The actors lucky know their craft, so the performances are fine, but outside of some good eerie music the scenes don’t come together as well as they may have under a more skilled director.

Returning to the screenplay, “A Walk Among Tombstones” is a story that slowly unfolds as Scudder must do real detective work to hunt down the antagonists in the picture, both of who are monsters. Be warned, the movie can be disturbing at times. The ultimate payoff could have been better, but that falls to the director’s side again. If Liam Neeson was not in this movie, it may not have been worth seeing, but his presence helps makes it a movie worth seeing. It is rated R for strong violence, disturbing images, language and brief nudity.