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A Long Walk Through Twelve Steps: A Walk Among The Tombstones

Updated on April 5, 2015

Matthew Scudder used to be a New York police detective and a heavy drinker. Those days are long behind him as he regularly attends AA meetings and works as an unlicensed detective. One day, a fellow AA member tells him that his brother could use a guy like Matt as the friend needs help finding his wife's killer. Matt reluctantly accepts, and soon finds a connection to that murder, as well as to other crimes, one of which is in the planning stages. These cases eventually have Matt taking A Walk Among The Tombstones.

The movie takes place primarily in 1999, and stars Liam Neeson as Matt. His client is Kenny Kristo (Dan Stevens), a drug dealer who paid a ransom for the safe return of his wife, only to discover she has been murdered and dismembered. Peter Kristo (Boyd Holbrook), a Desert Storm veteran dealing with alcohol and substance abuse, offers to help Matt. As Matt researches the case at the local library, he meets a homeless teen named TJ (Brian "Astro" Bradley), who helps Matt use more modern research techniques. That helps him to locate Reuben Quintana (Mark Consuelos), whose fiancé died in a similar fashion. Her remains found their way to a cemetery, where employee Jonas Loogan (Olafur Darri Olafsson) retrieved them. Scudder presses Jonas for information, and discovers that he was with the two men who committed the murders. Before saying more, Jonas takes his own life.

Matt discovers that these killings have a connection to some DEA cases. The killers, Ray (David Harbour) and Albert (Adam David Thompson), already have a third target in mind. Soon, they break into the home of Yuri Landau (Sebastian Roche) and kidnap his teenage daughter Lucia (Danielle Rose Russell). Ray and Albert make their ransom demands, but Matt tells them they get nothing without proof of life at the exchange spot, which is the cemetery where Jonas used to work. Matt has TJ, whom Matt now calls an assistant, bring a box from his apartment. The Kristo brothers join Scudder, and they already have firepower with them.

A Walk Among The Tombstones, which is based on a novel by Lawrence Block, is a typical, but good, film noir from director Scott Frank, who also adapted Block's book to the screen. The story pits a troubled detective against even more troubled bad guys, and includes clients who aren't clean themselves. The only characters, therefore, who are truly sympathetic are the victims and TJ, who has bigger problems than his homelessness. Matt and others covertly hide the activities they do to make their money. Matt, as he explains to Kenny, accepts gifts for his services. While he may be a troubled ex-cop, Matt has not forgotten how to be tough with bad men, but only the nature of the crimes brings him to the case. He also knows how to treat those who help and abide by the law fairly. Frank, whose only other theatrical release as director was 2007's The Lookout, does a decent job with characters who are more unpleasant than many noir characters.

Neeson's Scudder will probably remind some of his portrayal of Bryan Mills, the ex-CIA agent who still has to fight hardened criminals in the Taken movies. Like the Taken character, Matt has a particular set of skills, but has a past that makes him reluctant to use all of them. TJ shows Matt that the ex-cop has new skills to acquire in an information age that has begun to transition from microfilm to online searches, and telephones have gained a mobility not as readily available to Matt when he was on the force. His involvement with AA means atonement, and the events of the movie could be seen as such. Neeson and the others perform admirably, but the cast also fails to leave a great mark with their work.

Some cases call for a man who doesn't mind facing the darkest qualities of man. Matthew Scudder has certainly known some of the darkest situations, for he's working to get past some of the darkness of his own life. In A Walk Among The Tombstones, Matt must not only face demons on the loose, but he also deals with the inner demons that led him to end a career and a vice. Matt Scudder, though, sees greater demons that compel him to solve a murder. He not only needs to be a man who depends on others, but he also must be strong for those who need him.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give A Walk Among The Tombstones three stars. Rest in peace?


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