Don’t get taken in by this lat­est Nee­son set-up

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - DON­ALD CLARKE

AWALK AMONG THE TOMB­STONES Di­rected by Scott Frank Star­ring Liam Nee­son, Dan Stevens, Boyd Hol­brook, Ruth Wilson, Se­bas­tian Roché The trailer for the lat­est Liam Nee­son thriller is de­cep­tive in un­ex­pected fash­ion. We are used to such ma­te­rial con­ceal­ing the fact that there is singing in mu­si­cals or dis­tract­ing at­ten­tion from the for­eign­ness of subti­tled pic­tures. But some­thing else is go­ing on here.

The promo sells A Walk Among the Tomb­stones as a vi­o­lent thriller dur­ing which Liam Nee­son punches one hood­lum through a win­dow. We have no ar­gu­ments here. The film cer­tainly is fairly tasty with its mitts and Nee­son does, in­deed, punch somebody through a win­dow.

But all the pro­mo­tional ma­te­rial gives the im­pres­sion that – as is the way in re­cent Nee­son pic­tures – the hero is on an un­stop­pable ram­page ex­act­ing re­venge for some east-Euro­pean out­rage.

There are ab­duc­tions at the heart of Scott Frank’s pic­ture. We are, how­ever, look­ing at some­thing just a lit­tle more mea­sured than the av­er­age Nee­son punch-up. Adapted from one of Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scud­der books, A Walk Among the Tomb­stones is that rarest of things: a con­tem­po­rary Pri­vate Eye story.

Well, that’s not quite right. As Scud­der ex­plains, he is not of­fi­cially li­censed. After ac­ci­den­tally caus­ing the death of a child, he re­tired from the NYPD and now does peo­ple favours for money.

In this story, the tough, un­com­pro­mis­ing, flawed hero (you know the deal) finds him­self help­ing out a drug dealer (an un­likely Dan Stevens) whose wife has been kid­napped by psy­cho­path­i­cally ruth­less hood­lums.

Nee­son is, it hardly needs to be said, well suited to this sort of scuffed hero. The film dis­cov­ers some un­der­ex­plored New York lo­ca­tions and the story un­folds at a di­gestible pace as it un­earths tricky moral am­bi­gu­i­ties. Scott (di­rec­tor of the un­fairly over­looked The Look­out) has, how­ever, al­lowed one pe­cu­liar, dis­tract­ing un­der­cur­rent to bub­ble about the film’s toes.

Set in late 1999, the film fea­tures end­less ref­er­ences to the mil­len­nial bug and then, in the last few min­utes, re­veals that we should have been wor­ry­ing about some­thing else al­to­gether. Why are you telling us this now?

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