I recently watched the duration of A Walk Among The Tombstones, despite the fact that it relies, heavily, on two tropes that usually qualify a movie for immediate ejection: female mutilation, and child endangerment.
Admittedly, its use of those tropes also heightened my emotional investment in the narrative. These were bad guys I really, really wanted to see "get theirs." And I was fairly confident they would, because the movie is based on a Lawrence Block novel, and though Block can be gritty and grim, he's not one to indulge in tragic conclusions.
In fact, Block was another reason why I kept watching. I've read a few of his books -- he's a deft pulper, an estimable hack. If you've been reading me for any length of time you know those are qualities I generally admire. But Block's never quite become a habit for me, because his heroes can read as so damn tough -- often too damn tough to relate to. This could be a problem in a movie like Tombstones, because once the people start talking, they're speaking vintage Block dialogue.
Enter the third reason I watched this movie to the end: Liam Neeson. When Neeson's "Matt Scudder" corners a pervy suspect, who wonders why bad things keep happening to him, Scudder simply says, "You're a weirdo." On the page, that reads as cold. But Neeson's delivery, while blunt, contains just the faintest trace of empathy, if not sympathy. It's enough to get the suspect to disclose a key revelation -- and enough to keep me watching, because I'm becoming increasingly invested in Neeson's character.
Things end where we expect them to in a movie like this -- very violently. It's not a cartoonish Taken sort of violence, either, but rather the more genuinely physical violence that Neeson displayed in Rob Roy.
Which, now that I think of it, is probably the movie that launched Neeson's improbable career as the single most convincing action star to hit the screen since Clint Eastwood.