‘Walk Among the Tombstones’ is one chilling thriller

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We have been suffering though a real heat wave recently with triple digit temps and little relief in sight. There's always a plunge in a swimming pool for a quick fix or you can chill out in an air-conditioned movie. Sadly most summer films have been disappointing, but now, just in the nick of time, a great thriller has opened starring Liam Neeson as private eye Matthew Scudder in Universal's late summer hit " Walk Among the Tombstones."

We have been suffering though a real heat wave recently with triple digit temps and little relief in sight. There's always a plunge in a swimming pool for a quick fix or you can chill out in an air-conditioned movie. Sadly most summer films have been disappointing, but now, just in the nick of time, a great thriller has opened starring Liam Neeson as private eye Matthew Scudder in Universal's late summer hit " Walk Among the Tombstones."

The film, based on Lawrence Block's novel, is by far one of the best movies released this year.  And of course it stars Liam Neeson, which is another big plus.

Scudder, a former NYC cop, has left the force and is working as a private detective.  A recovering alcoholic, he regularly attends AA meetings and has been clean and sober for eight years.

As the film opens it is 1991, and Neeson, while still on police duty, has gone to one of his favorite bars for a few quick drinks when two young thugs come in and kill the bartender during a robbery attempt.

Immediately Scudder follows in hot pursuit, but what happens next is the reason why he quits NYPD and joins AA. The incident has haunted him ever since.

The film cuts from 1991 and his troubled past to 1999 when Scudder is asked by a fellow AA participant to find the killer of his brother's wife. It turns out the brother is a drug dealer whose beautiful wife was kidnapped for ransom.

Even though he raises the ransom money, the dealer's young wife is brutally murdered.  Devastated, her husband seeks revenge with Scudder's help and he's willing to pay big bucks.

Scudder begins his search at the library.  As he slowly and painstakingly goes through countless newspaper murder features he starts to see a pattern in several recent  horrific killings.

The women were all disfigured and mutilated just as the drug dealer's wife was. While Scudder is street smart, he is computer stupid. When he notices a scruffy young teenager across from him who is a wiz with a mouse, he begins a conversation with the kid.

Soon he has talked him into helping him search through countless files for a fee of twenty bucks, a few kind words and a meal.

This, it turns out, is the start of an unusual, but compelling friendship as Scudder keeps running into the homeless kid, who admires him and would like to be a superhero detective himself.  Their relationship adds to this engrossing thriller as Scudder exposes clues, beginning in a nearby cemetery where another young woman's body was found in several trash bags floating on the pond not too long ago.

The film skillfully tracks down leads, clues and suspects with plenty of twists and turns.  The action is fast paced, and Neeson is believable as the gritty ex-cop who has beaten the battle with booze by constantly taking everything one day at a time.

And Neeson is perfect as Matt Scudder, a flawed man who is not adverse to a bribe or working just outside the law.  This being said, he still is a man of personal honor and integrity  While he's not perfect, he has his own moral code and scruples. 

Neeson's Scudder is a guy you can't help liking.  He's a man who is strong, yet vulnerable. This is coupled with innate competence and a sadness that radiates from his gaze as he faces personal demons on and off the job.

Overall, the film is engrossing and keeps your interest throughout as Matt tracks down a pair of killers you will love to hate.

And the relationship with Scudder and the kid should hopefully lead to a sequel in the not too distant future. 

Neeson's Scudder is a compelling lead character—a hard-boiled cop with a soft center. 

The ultimate confrontation turns out to be a bit Hollywood, but overall the film is engrossing and well done, with a conclusion that leaves us with a good feeling.

I am certain that the sad-eyed Matthew Scudder will be back.  Hopefully soon.  From Universal, rated R.