Plot: What’s it about?
I’m not sure if an actor being typecast is a good or bad thing. I realize that if you do something and do it well, why change it? We don’t want Peyton Manning running for President or Tom Cruise playing for the Boston Celtics (pardon the bizarre references), but to my point pertaining to acting – it seems that we always see the same sort of actors in the same sort of films. Liam Neeson has had a long and varied career, but only in the past 5-6 years has he really been typecast in a genre film. We all know the Taken series of films, but this also led to others like Non-Stop, Unknown and now A Walk Among the Tombstones. Yes, I do realize that he’s also played Zeus in the Clash of the Titans films, had a part in the Batman films and even played a villain in A Million Ways to Die in the West, but by and large these “gritty dramas” are what he’s become known for. But as I said, if you do something and do it well – why change?
Neeson plays Matt Scudder, an ex-NYPD police officer and recovering alcoholic who has since quit the force and is now a Private Investigator. The film takes place in 1999, on the dawn of the Y2K scare. Matt is tracked down by a heroin trafficker, Kenny (Dan Stevens) to find and kill the men who kidnapped and killed his wife. Shudder reluctantly agrees to help only to find out that this was not a one-time incident. Shudder also picks up a “streetwise” pal who helps him with some of the investigating, but as Matt digs further and further, he realizes how deep, disturbing and disgusting these criminals really are. Matt is now racing against the clock to save another life, but will he be able to do it or will she become another senseless victim?
Based on the novel by Lawrence Block, A Walk Among the Tombstones was a good, but not great thriller. Certainly Neeson is in his element here and while not one of the Taken films, I’m sure he drew upon his experiences there. I think that the character certainly had a bit more depth than I was expecting and having not read the novels themselves, I don’t really know why the movie was set in 1999 (it started out in 1991). I’d actually left the room for a minute and saw an ad on the top of a taxi and said “what is this set in 1999 or something?” to my wife. Turns out I was right. In truth, this reminds me a lot of a movie that actually did come out in 1999 called The Watcher with Keanu Reeves and James Spader. I actually preferred that one to this, but again – that’s just me. The film has enough action to keep one interested, but not much more. The lack of supplements screams of ‘rental’ rather than ‘purchase.’
Video: How’s it look?
The film has a very dark and bleak visual appeal to it and I suppose with any movie that has “Tombstones” in the title, that might be a tip off. The 2.40:1 AVC HD image has a few moments of visual glory, but is rather ultimately defined by the black levels, contrast and starkness of some of the key scenes. Detail is immaculate, we can see the crow’s feet around Neeson’s eyes, some of the little nuances in the backgrounds and even read the text on the microfiche. It’s a nice, well-defined image that gives us a look at New York circa 2000 (and if you pay close attention near the ending scene, you’ll see a not so familiar skyline).
Audio: How’s it sound?
As I sit here looking at the back of the slip cover, I see the phrase “Intense and Gritty” and, truthfully, that’s the best way to describe the film as well as its soundtrack (I guess that’s why it made the cut to be on the back of the box). The DTS HD Master Audio mix has a few moments that really shine, I don’t think I’ve heard guns fire with such emphasis since some of the Indiana Jones films. Neeson’s deep and raspy voice take front and center (pun fully intended) stage throughout. Surrounds add some extra support in a few chaotic scenes and the front stage handles the action nicely. It’s a good, immersive mix that really does full several of the key moments of the film.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- A Look Behind the Tombstones – This is your standard “Making Of…” feature that contains some behind the scenes interviews, some talking heads with the cast and crew as they discuss the film and a bit more. Nothing really of substance here.
- Matt Scudder: Private Eye – The lone Blu-ray exclusive is a rather interesting, if not all too brief look at the character portrayed by Neeson in the film. Writer Lawrence Block and Director Scott Frank give some insight into the character and Neeson as well as some of the challenges of adapting the novel to the screen.
- DVD/Digital HD Copy