I have recently come to the conclusion that lately my parents can’t seem to pick movies. The past few we have gone too and they have chosen, have just been a complete disaster. Sadly when I heard about the Liam Neeson lasted I was pretty excited, he’s one of my favorite actors after all. However, this movie was just boring and draggy. But let me dive a little deeper.
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A Walk Among the Tombstones is directed by Scott Frank (The Lookout and Marley & Me) and was written for screen by Scott as well but it’s based off a novel by Lawrence Block. It stars Liam Neeson as Matt Scudder (Taken and Non-Stop) who is a former NYC Police Officer, now Private Detective. Also staring is Maurice Compte as Danny Ortiz (End of Watch and Sabotage), a drug trafficer who’s wife has been killed by two men even though he paid the ransom.
Here’s the story…
In 1991 Manhattan, Mathew Scudder, an off-duty New York Police Department (NYPD) officer, is unexpectedly caught up in an armed robbery at a bar where officers drink for free. Scudder runs down the gun men and kills them but does also kill an innocent little seven year old girl in the process, bullet to the eye. Scudder isn’t the same after this and he quits the department with full benefits and then spends the next eight years in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) while moonlighting as a an unlicensed private eye. He even gives the same speech every time he goes to a meeting.
Then suddenly one night everything changes for Scudder. He is approached by another member named Kenny seeking Scudder’s help with something that happened with his brother. Scudder reluctantly agrees to meet with Kenny’s brother Danny and after a few moments with Danny, Scudder knows that Danny is a involved in the drug business. And Danny wants to hire Scudder to find the two men that murdered his wife, even though he paid the $400k ransom. To say he wanted revenge is an understatement. Danny was given back his wife, in tiny pieces cut up in the back of an abandoned car.
He follows some clues and eventually needs to see if anything like this has happened before. Scudder goes to the local library to look at old newspapers. There he meets a young kid named TJ who is an amazing drawer and good with computers, which Scudder isn’t. He is eventually able to figure out the pattern of the kills and what the murderers are going after with TJ’s help. This is where he also learns that a cemetery groundsman discovered one of the victim’s remains while fishing trash bags out of a pond. After trailing the groundsman back to his house Scudder learns that he was an accomplice for one of the murders, and has had trouble getting over his role in the homicide. The groundsman explains that he met the two men that Scudder is after in a movie store; both men apparently shared a fetish-like interest in death. Scudder learns one of the two men goes by the name Ray, but before he can glean any further information, the groundsman abruptly kills himself by stepping off the roof of his apartment building. Upon further investigation, Scudder determines that the two men he is after were at one point somehow affiliated with the DEA, and have been targeting drug dealers from whom to extort money.
In a residential neighborhood, Ray and his accomplice prepare to abduct another woman, however Ray waves the kidnapping at the last minute. As the two prepare to leave Ray observes the target’s daughter leave a house, and retools their kidnapping attempt to take the girl. When Scudder learns of the kidnapping he has TJ bring a box of his old police equipment to the victim’s house, and instructs the victim to refuse payment unless they can prove the girl is still alive, correctly guessing that the kidnappers will kill the girl regardless of whether the ransom is paid. Scudder lures Ray and his accomplice out by forcing them to pick up the ransom in person. After the ransom is paid, a shoot-out occurs, injuring Ray. Ray and his partner flee the drop site, unaware that in the ensuing shoot out TJ managed to sneak into their van.
At their safe house, Ray attempts to get medical treatment for his gunshot wounds, however Ray’s partner elects to kill him instead. After TJ calls Scudder with the safe house’s location, Scudder and his ad hoc team arrive, precipitating a brief struggle. Scudder’s people successfully restrain the second man, at which point Scudder instructs TJ to return to his place. After offering Kenny the chance to turn him in or obtain his revenge, Kenny opts for the latter, but the restrained second man escapes and kills Kenny before he can fulfill his wish. Another struggle ensues between Scudder and the second murderer, which ends when Scudder shoots the man in the head at close range. As the police arrive to secure and the scene and wrap up the case Scudder then returns to his apartment.
Needless to say it’s a typical follow the clues line of work. However, the story is draggy and takes about 45 minutes too long for the bad guys to finally bit the dust, including Danny. The movie doesn’t really get you into the exact reason why the two men were committing these crimes in the first place. It does explain how the men chose their victims but it doesn’t say why they went after the DEA agent to begin with (I assume because she was dating one of the drug dealers). It’s a lot of guess work and things are predictable. I give it 3 out 10 stars.