Liam Neeson Stands Tall in “Walk Among Tombstones”
By Skip Sheffield
There are two R-rated rock ‘em sock ‘em, shoot ‘em, stab ‘em, ultra-violent crime thrillers out this weekend. “A Walk Among the Tombstones” is the better of two, largely because of its star, Liam Neeson.
The hulking Irish actor has a powerful onscreen presence, but he also has an undercurrent of sorrow and regret, which serves his conflicted characters well.
Neeson is Matthew Scudder, a former cop-turned unlicensed private investigator in stories by novelist Lawrence Block. There is a whole series of Matt Scudder adventures, some of which have already been made into movies.
The character of Matt Scudder is a recovering alcoholic. The story is prefaced by a flashback to Scudder’s drinking days in 1991. Matt is in his favorite bar, starting off the day with two shots of whisky and a black coffee. Suddenly two thugs burst on the scene, waving guns and demanding money from the bartender. When they wantonly shoot the proprietor dead, Scudder springs into action, chasing them out the down with pistol drawn. With deadly aim Scudder kills two of the hoodlums and wounds an accomplice.
We learn later Scudder was given a commendation for his bravery, but knowing he was already drunk, the incident has shaken himself so badly he decides to quit the force and take the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step pledge.
The action shifts to the present and a murder most foul. A pretty young woman has been abducted and held for ransom. Despite the fact her husband paid the ransom, the woman known as Leila (Laura Birn) is murdered anyway and dismembered, with body parts stuffed into plastic bags.
Scudder has seen and done everything, but something this senseless and vile really gets his goat. When a young girl is threatened, Scudder grudgingly goes on the offensive, aided by a young but brainy homeless kid known as T.J. (Brian “Astro” Bradley) and a not very stable Army veteran known as Kenny (Dan Stevens).
There are interesting characters in the mix, such as Loogan (Olafur Darri Olafsson), who was involved with the killers but not an active participant. Then there is Ray (David Harbour) a murderous flat-out psycho, and Yuri (Sebastian Roche) as his more rational but no less deadly co-conspirator.
Despite the blood, bullets and gore this violent romp is anchored by the strong, silent serenity of Liam Neeson. I suspect we may be seeing his Matthew Scudder again.