Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars
Liam Neeson has traded in his concussion inducing fists, action film one liners and torture tactics — at least for the time being — for his latest role in “A Walk Among the Tombstones”. Many will be expecting another hit-man seeking revenge action flick, but Neeson shows some quiet restraint as Matthew, a former NYPD cop turned gumshoe. Instead of making grand leaps throughout Europe, Neeson strolls through the grim landscape of Brooklyn, that’s seemingly trapped in a perpetual state of rain. It definitely atches Matthew’s weathered face and grim outlook on life. These are the kind of roles I like Liam Neeson in.
Matthew lives a very minimalist life. It’s shows because he doesn’t have a computer or cell phone. But that’s OK, it’s 1999 in this movie, and there’s still pay phones littered all around the area and people are freaking out over Y2K. He’s recently been hired by Kenny (Stevens), a well to do drug dealer. He’s kind of like the upper middle class in the drug dealing ring. He loves clean modern furniture and doesn’t abuse his product. Kenny hopes Matthew can track down a duo of beasts, that kidnapped his wife, demanded a ransom, and then after receiving their pay day, delivered his wife back in multiple, small, neatly wrapped cocaine bags in the trunk of a car that you would suspect a drug dealer would drive.
These pair of monsters that Matthew is tracking down would make Hannibal Lecter drool with delight, but unlike Lecter, they lack charisma and charm. One appears to derive pleasure from sexual violence and watching his victims squirm while the other assailant simply appears to be in it for the money; sampling the pieces of his partner’s blood lust. They’re a real disgusting pair to watch at work. We come to find out they’re hitting up drug dealers to satisfy both of their appetites and have a decent sized portfolio of potential victims. As the movie goes, so does their descent into darker wants and needs.
“Tombstones” is one of the best made thrillers in recent memory, leaving the motivations and deepest levels of depravity of the villains up in the air, creating a nauseating sense of suspense in the viewer’s gut. The film takes a couple of moments to breathe with the introduction of TJ (Bradley), a homeless African-American child that looks up to Matthew. TJ feels like a speed bump in the pace when he’s first introduced, but it becomes clear towards the latter half that his introduction was to provide Matthew with an outlet to voice his inner demons and find that sliver of hope in his personal pit of despair.
It’s interesting watching the supposed good guy of the film quickly shrug off the protagonist role. While Matthew might not be personally invested in the crime, he’s attached his own path of soulful enlightenment by how he reacts to each step towards solving the mystery and its eventual outcome. Neeson has no problem handling the weighty emotions of Matthew and if these are the kind of roles we can expect from Neeson in the future, count me in.