's reinvention as an action star shouldn't be that surprising. After all, when he snarls, "I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you," in Taken, you believe it. It's a renaissance that should do especially well for the 60-year-old in A Walk Among the Tombstones, based on writer Lawrence Block's tenth book about private investigator Matthew Scudder.
Still, there's more to Neeson than being a giant Irishman coming in at 6'4". He's a great actor who combines raw emotion with his physical prowess. I’ve been a fan of since his so-bad-it's-good performance in the 1980s fantasy/sci-fi extravaganza Krull. While I've patiently waited for it to make its way into the Criterion Collection (don't judge), I've gotten the impression that he's phoned it in recently with movies like Taken 2 and Unknown.
That's why A Walk Among the Tombstones is exciting. It will combine the drama and action that separates Neeson from the rest. It's the same reason why I loved The Grey to pieces: You get ass-kicking Neeson with heartbroken Neeson, plus a little macho, B-movie existentialism thrown in for good measure.
Here are three reasons why you should be giddy with excitement that Neeson is still intense, tough, and carrying a gun in A Walk Among the Tombstones.
The novel is a dark, pulpy gem
A Walk Among the Tombstones follows alcoholic cop-turned-private-investigator, Matt Scudder (Neeson), who reluctantly helps a mid-level drug dealer investigate the kidnapping and horrific murder of his wife. Scudder's investigation only leads him into darker territories of human behavior.
The character Matt Scudder has been in Lawrence Block's pulpy books since 1976. While there are a couple of missteps in A Walk Among the Tombstones that I didn't particular care for - like Scudder's youthful wisecracking sidekick - the key scenes were pageturners. There's even a nail-biter of an ending and some truly gruesome, violent moments.
There's the possibility that all the great moments won't find their way into the film, but with screenwriter Scott Frank's pedigree, I'm positive that it's going to be great.
It’s an affair of the heart for Scott Frank
Screenwriter is a big deal. He's responsible for movies like Out of Sight, Get Shorty, and Minority Report. But the one script he couldn't stop talking about was his unproduced A Walk Among the Tombstones adaptation.
Take this quote for instance:
Love that script. One of my favorite scripts. I really, really love that.
Or this one:
I would love to see it get made. The problem is finding a movie star who is fifty years old and wants to do it. It’s very dark and it’s very hard to get a studio behind it and put the money up for it. It’s a tough one.
Once upon a time in 2002, this movie star was . He was attached and ripe for a career overhaul. A Walk Among the Tombstones was going to be that for a short, glorious moment. Instead, he backed out and opted for Hollywood Homicide. Roughly ten years later, luckily stepped in to fill Ford's shoes.
The search for a director was no less frustrating. (Disturbia) was the last filmaker to keep the director's chair warm and eventually backed out.
Finally, basically quoted in that God-defying scene in The Grey and said "I'll do it myself!" The screenwriter already has one directing gig under his belt: The unusual crime thriller The Lookout which genre-wise doesn't seem too far off from 'Tombstones.'
In other words: Frank has waited a really long time to see A Walk Among the Tombstones happen. This is becoming his story as much as novelist Lawrence Block.
This part was made for Liam Neeson
Matt Scudder could be 's best role. Really! If you don't believe me - and why should you after all this Krull-love - listen to esteemed crime novelist, Lawrence Block, talking about the Frank/ Neeson tandem with The Wrap:
[...] ever since I saw him in Michael Collins, Neeson has been up at the top of my personal Scudder wish list. I couldn’t be happier about either the star or the writer/director, both of them genuine artists and brilliant professionals. My book’s in good hands.
Scudder is a deeply wounded guy who of course had a very troubling reason to leave the police force. He's a recovering alcoholic, compassionate but not outwardly so. He gives Neeson quite a bit to play with -- from anguish to anger, and back to anguish again. There's also a bit of playful banter with his sidekick. I somewhat dread that, but it still adds layers to the character.
For those Taken aficionados, A Walk Among the Tombstones will offer the added pleasure of seeing the lethal Irishman have one of those tense phone conversations he has become rightfully famous for. But my bet is that it will be a superior, memorable role.