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Liam Neeson in Forgettable ‘A Walk Among the Tombstones’

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Average: 5 (2 votes)
HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 2.0/5.0
Rating: 2.0/5.0

CHICAGO – Liam Neeson still looks good being a badass, but “A Walk Among The Tombstones” is a vehicle unworthy of his particular set of skills. It’s not a tightly constructed thriller like “Non-Stop,” and it lacks the sheer over-the-top ludicrousness of “Taken 2.” This is largely a by-the-numbers jalopy that can best be called forgettable.

I can’t fault the premise, though. Neeson stars as Matt Scudder: an unlicensed private dick and former NYPD cop who now operates just on the outskirts of the law. The film opens in the early 90’s with Neeson sporting a wig and goatee that look like they came from a Halloween shop. After a shootout with stickup artists in a bar left a civilian casualty, Neeson quits the force. Now he helps those types of characters who would rather not have regular cops sniffing around their affairs.

Flash forward to 1999 (for seemingly no other reason than to display a little nostalgia trip back to Y2K paranoia). He’s hired by a drug trafficker named Kenny portrayed by Dan Stevens, who is apparently cornering the market on good looking, smirking creeps in Hollywood these days. His wife was kidnapped, he paid the ransom, and her kidnappers returned her in pieces. Now he wants Neeson to track them down.

Liam Neeson
Liam Neeson Strikes a Familiar Pose in ‘A Walk Among the Tombstones’
Photo credit: Universal Pictures

Writer/director Scott Frank, working from a novel by Lawrence Block, comes up with the occasional artistic flourish, mostly involving Neeson cold-cocking adversaries. But the movie and his plodding script never develop much momentum, tension, or interest even among the actors.

This is largely a one-man show, with weak villains and everyone else in the second tier supporting cast given relatively little to do. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Neeson give a truly awful performance, and he is decent enough here even though I think he could do this sort of thing in his sleep by now.

The movie also tries saddling him with a homeless African American teenage sidekick (Astro), who’s got a life threatening disease to boot. While it’s somewhat entertaining to see Neeson dispense some truly awful parenting advice involving a stolen handgun, the relationship feels forced more often than not.

Liam Neeson, Astro
Liam Neeson and Astro in ‘A Walk Among the Tombstones’
Photo credit: Universal Pictures

Like so many of his flawed heroes lately this one is an alcoholic, although at least Neeson is a recovering one in AA. But it’s merely window dressing although Frank’s script would have us believe otherwise. The film literally recites the 12 steps amid a gunfight in its own twisted attempt at poignancy, but let me tell you, “The Godfather” this most definitely is not.

The movie never reaches its full potential partly because it never truly knows how to set itself apart from every other Neeson action vehicle. This is one walk among the tombstones that is likely to fade far from your memory before you even hit the parking lot.

“A Walk Among the Tombstones” opens everywhere on September 19th. Featuring Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, David Harbour, Astro and Adam David Thompson. Written and directed by Scott Frank, based on the novel by Lawrence Block. Rated “R”

HollywoodChicago.com contributor Spike Walters

By SPIKE WALTERS
Contributor
HollywoodChicago.com
spike@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2014 Spike Walters, HollywoodChicago.com

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