Credits roll, and a haunting cover of "Black Hole Sun" by Nouela plays (the same song from the trailer). Its mellow and dilatory tune perfectly encapsulates the bleak, somber tone of this chilling thriller where Liam Neeson isn't the invincible badass his reputation usually proclaims. We first meet Matt Scudder (Neeson) in a flashback in the early 1990's where he clumsily takes down three crooks in a murky New York City. Fast forward to 1999, and he's retired—apparently scarred by his own incompetence on that wretched day—laying back at his favorite restaurant when an acquaintance (Eric Nelsen) informs him of a significant (unofficial) assignment. Oh no, a retired, gloomy detective returns for one last job? And yet, the film astonishingly manages to feature these kinds of irksome clichés but executes them in such an exceptional way as to overshadow their familiarity with the underlying compelling storyline and arresting cinematography.
Long story short: a drug dealer's (Dan Stevens) wife has been kidnapped and chopped into bits and pieces only to be nauseatingly dispersed in a park's pond. The remainder of the narrative—about 25 minutes in—sees Scudder investigating and following the cunning tracks of two alarming killers. In that regard, the killers (David Harbour and Adam David Thompson) make for incredibly creepy villains, mirthfully indulging in the rape of young girls and innocent wives while videotaping the horror and asking for a substantial ransom from their respective families. Alas, the audience will be forced through disturbingly shot and edited sequences of helpless women exerting to lie still as execrable hands scale their flesh—close-ups of wide eyes and deathly pale skin.
On another note, many have been complaining that A Walk among the Tombstones isn't exactly the unpredictable and fast-paced mystery thriller they were expecting. However, that doesn't deem it a bad film, does it? Because it's clearly not attempting to (generically) fall into that category. Initially, I was also flabbergasted and immensely underwhelmed by David Fincher's Zodiac, presuming it to be a tense, brisk thriller; nevertheless, after a repeat viewing, I quickly realized that marketing—while, yes, manipulating audience expectations— shouldn't be an indicator of actual quality. If this particular movie was striving to be unpredictable yet you correctly predicted every single twist long before it came, then yes, it would've been a disastrous failure. Like Zodiac though, the movie is more about the grim and eerie atmosphere and, of course, the psychopathic killers themselves.
Aside from a few effectively humorous lines, this film is not the typical "crowd-pleaser expected from a post-Taken Liam Neeson picture, and the trailers clearly established that too. With that being said, it's still more exciting than a slow burn. As long as moviegoers accept its (effectual) dark aura and are successfully frightened by its imagery and subject matter, A Walk among the Tombstones will be a highly satisfying experience at the cinema. In fact, judging by its underwhelming box office results, I will even go so far as to say it might be the sleeper hit of this fall like Rush and Don Jon were last September.