A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Walk Among the Tombstones is a crime thriller starring Liam Neeson as private investigator Matthew Scudder (a character previously played by Jeff Bridges in 1986's 8 Million Ways to Die). There's lots of gritty violence, including shoot outs, fighting, and blood. Women and teens are kidnapped and terrorized (one is threatened with having one of her breasts sliced off). A boy is beaten up, a young girl is shot, and another young girl is kidnapped. The kidnappers have gruesome ways of disposing with bodies, including chopping one up into bits. Language is strong, including several uses of "f--k" and "s--t." The main character is a recovering alcoholic, eight years sober, who attends AA meetings; he's shown drinking in a flashback. Another major character is a drug addict who smokes cigarettes. Sex is seen in a set of photographs, and topless women are shown in paintings, but there's nothing involving the major characters.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Eight years ago, New York cop Matt Scudder (Liam Neeson) was drunk during a robbery and the subsequent chase, and it changed him forever. Now, in the movie's present (which is set in 1999), he operates as an unlicensed private detective. A drug dealer (Dan Stevens) hires him to find the men who kidnapped his wife; even though he paid the ransom, they killed her. Scudder hits the streets and starts looking for clues; a homeless kid, T.J. (Brian "Astro" Bradley), occasionally helps. Before long, Scudder discovers that these kidnappers have a specific M.O. -- targeting victims with ready cash who won't call the cops -- and that it's happened at least once before. Unfortunately, they've struck again, kidnapping a 14-year-old girl, and time is running out.
Is it any good?
Screenwriter Scott Frank tells the story with enthusiasm and skill. Frank has made a career of adapting crime novels and thrillers by Elmore Leonard, Philip K. Dick, and James Lee Burke for the screen. He wrote an excellent original thriller and made his directorial debut with The Lookout; A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES, adapted from a Lawrence Block novel, is his follow-up. Like a good crime novelist, Frank doesn't necessarily bring anything new to the genre, but he gives it a fresh presentation.
He captures a fine big-city feel with grungy shops and stairwells, as well as luckier, fancier places. Characters flit in and out of the story with the sense that they have lived lives here. Even the standard "cute kid" character of T.J. is handled like an everyday occurrence. Set in 1999, the story includes references to the paranoia of the Y2K computer "virus." The overall sense of dread and rage is strong, even if the movie is too long to be terribly suspenseful.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about A Walk Among the Tombstones' violence. How much is directed against women? How do these sequences compare with the standard chasing and shooting sequences? How did they all make you feel?
How does Scudder being an alcoholic impact the story? How does it affect his character? Does it make him more sympathetic?
- In theaters: September 19, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: January 13, 2015
- Cast: Liam Neeson, Astro, Dan Stevens
- Director: Scott Frank
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 113 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong violence, disturbing images, language and brief nudity
- Last updated: March 8, 2021
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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