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May Tombstones Mark the Death of the Liam Neeson Taken Clones

May <i>Tombstones</i> Mark the Death of the Liam Neeson <i>Taken</i> Clones

DVD Release Date: January 13, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: September 19, 2014
Rating: R (strong violence, disturbing images, language and brief nudity)
Genre: Action/Crime
Run Time: 113 min.
Director: Scott Frank
Cast: Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, Boyd Holbrook, David Harbour, Maurice Compte, Patrick McDade, Danny Ortiz, Laura Birn, Adam David Thompson

Much like Matt Damon before he became Jason Bourne, Liam Neeson wasn’t necessarily the first guy you’d think of as a bankable action movie star either. But thanks his 2008 surprise hit, Taken, that’s practically all he stars in these days, a shame considering he’s such a fine dramatic actor as well.

Now after the yawn-worthy Taken 2, which basically reprised the original beat-for-beat, and the laughably undercooked Non-Stop, Neeson finds himself in familiar territory yet again with A Walk Among the Tombstones. While making the talk show rounds recently, Neeson admitted that he was conflicted about accepting such a similar role initially. But after reading the script, he says he had a change of heart and believed that A Walk Among the Tombstones had its own merits and was worth starring in.

If only, he'd stuck with his original instincts…

Yes, Neeson is officially stuck in a rut. While his character, a private investigator named Matthew Scudder, may not have the personal investment in his work that his retired CIA agent Bryan Mills did in Taken, the film almost immediately has a been-there-seen-that sensibility. Aside from touting the strength of his bladder - apparently the new must-have accessory for a good agent - Neeson possesses the same skill set as always. He’s quick witted and can throw a mean punch, but here, his American accent still could use a bit of work, too.

Based on a series of best-selling novels by Lawrence Block, it's quite possible that A Walk Among the Tombstones was one of those sophisticated and cerebral page-turners that simply didn't translate well to screen. As is, however, the story is average at best. Like many big-screen protagonists of late, most recently with Pierce Brosnan in The November Man and Kevin Costner in 3 Days to Kill, an operation gone horribly wrong also led to Scudder's early retirement. Now a private investigator who has kicked his drinking habit, not to mention a few other personal demons, Scudder's life has fallen into a comfortable rhythm. Well, until he's approached by a heroin trafficker who is all-too-familiar with his previous work, naturally.

Even though he's no longer dressed in period clothing for TV’s Downton Abbey, Dan Stevens is far too fresh faced and clean cut to be playing such a hardened, world-weary character. If anything, he looks like he showed up to the wrong set. In A Walk Among the Tombstones, Stevens is way out of his league as a drug kingpin in search of personal revenge. See, there's a group of men who kidnapped (sound familiar?) and murdered his wife, and he believes Scudder is just the guy to help make things right.

Of course, Scudder learns a whole lot more about these mysterious men; most importantly, that they plan to kill again and again unless he intervenes.

If you've ever seen an action movie before, you'll know exactly where this story is headed in no time flat. Gray, drab and chock full of every imaginable act of violence possible, the only small pleasure in what's often a somber and tedious affair are a few bursts of unexpected humor that provide levity. But for the most part, what the filmmakers want us to consider heady, complex, thoroughly engaging content is merely standard-issue action movie stuff with an actor who deserves better. Let's hope Neeson gets the memo before signing on for more of the same.

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Social drinking. A man’s hard-drinking past is referenced several times. Illegal drugs figure pretty heavily into the plot, and cocaine use is depicted.
  • Language/Profanity: F--- and its variations are the profanity of choice, but there’s bad language sprinkled in throughout, including instances where God’s name is misused and racial epithets.
  • Sex/Nudity: Derogative terms including cu-- and co--suc--- are used. Sexual innuendos and references. Flashes of women’s bare breasts. Sexual acts are alluded to and briefly shown in photographs. References to sadism.
  • Violence: People are hurt and/or killed in a number of gory ways including by gunfire, beating, electrocution, strangulation, dismemberment and elaborate displays of torture. One particular scene involves suicide, and a few other scenes feature quite a bit of blood and bodily damage.

Publication date: September 19, 2014