A drug dealer (Dan Stevens) hires ex-cop turned P.I. Matthew Scudder (Liam Neeson) to find the sick and twisted f*ck (s) who took his wife. Scudder finds out how deep the rabbit hole goes... the hard way.
A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES
hopped on my radar pretty late in the game. I only heard about it a week before its release. Odd, as in light of my work on the site, I am usually aware of what’s on the horizon movie wise. With that, I’m glad I got to catch it! Those expecting another TAKEN like jamboree due to the initial premise and LIAM THE MAN NEESON being in the lead will be surprised – it’s not that kind of movie and hey; I was all good with that.
The whole time I was watching A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES; it kept reminding of those old 1970’s cop thrillers; the kind that they don’t really do anymore. All of the elements were there! We had the classic ex-drunk/cop character foraging the seedy New York streets trying to find a killer (s). And much like films from the 70’s, the mood here was fairly grim. Not only because of the slum neighborhoods our hero kept venturing into or the constant raining on hand but also due to the “human ugliness” that was put on display which disturbed me a tad. There was just an overall sense of “despair” throughout, no; this was not a “happy” movie. Upon some research I found out that the film was based on a series of books by writer Lawrence Block that saw the first tome hit the shelves in 1976. There are 17 books in all and this one was based on the 8th one (which was released in 1992). So the roots of the character explain the M.O. of this film adaptation.
Personally Liam Neeson was the movie for me. The dude has been busy playing Mr. Action Man now of late; so a meaty role like this definitely reminded me of how much of a strong actor he is. How he plays to the camera, how he conveys emotions via slight movements or an intense stare; his performance here was simply a delight from start to finish. And Taken fans will relish when he gets on the phone. When Neeson gets on the line to talk with nut-job (s); nut-job (s) motherf*cking listen! Loved it! There were so many great moments for Neeson here, I couldn’t get enough! I’m not sure that the film would have worked as well without him; he was definitely my anchor to the whole thing. That’s not to say that the story wasn’t engaging or that the other actors didn’t measure up. I was taken in by the chain of events (even though it was very familiar) and the (predictable) bumps and turns along the way. The flick was mucho low-key in its approach, almost totally devoid of action (aside from the opening and the ending) but I was engaged to varied degrees none the less.
The secondary cast also contributed in making this a tight watch. Dan Stevens (who also stars in the recently released THE GUEST
) was on the money as the tortured drug dealer with a cross to bear, Olafur Darri Olafsson was memorable in a small yet captivating role and Brian “Astro” Bradley was simply brilliant as the eventual kid side-kick. Usually roles of this ilk get on my nerves, but here it added heart, levity and hope to what was mostly a hope-less movie. Behind the lens Scott Frank gave the whole a gritty, gloomy, 70's ish (loved the freeze frames and the use of the AA 12 steps as a device) yet often stylized look, especially when having to do with the torture of women. To be honest; the artsy way he shot said mean spirited scenes made them even more uncomfortable for me. It was as if he was putting us in the killer (s) shoes and we saw the atrocities and their victims through their eyes. I got uneasy but I guess that was the point hence mission accomplished.
The same went for the little use of gore which made the affair even more unsettling. What I didn’t see was more disturbing than any latex or Karo syrup could have accomplished, Add to that a sly use of the Y2K phenomenon that added further unease to the world of the film (the story is set in 1999), an appropriately morose score by Carlos Rafael Rivera and shadowy cinematography by Mihai Malaimare Jr. and you get a solid thriller that’s definitely worth at least one watch. On the flip-side; I felt that the movie was a pinch too long for its own good and it also had one ending too many. And was it me or did Neeson walk too damn much? Dude could have used a car or a skateboard to get around. Moreover; this one followed the mold a little too closely (i.e. was too conventional) and the more it clocked forward the more it depended on convenient turns to progress its story. But my biggest peeve though was the ending and how it did not satisfy me as a film-goer. The film did a fine job at making me HATE and I mean HATE the person (s) behind the killings. I craved for him, her, them to suffer! Alas the flick fell short in that department. Neeson went soft on us.
When all was said and killed though A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES wound up being a flawed but still well rounded effort. It’s a perfect movie to watch on a rainy day with a cigarette dangling from one’s mouth, a glass of whiskey in one hand and a loaded gun in the other. ENJOY!
We get one slit throat and enough suggested horrific acts to make you cringe.
There was brief female nudity but the context was mucho unpleasant hence no dice!
A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES was an old fashioned cop thriller that embraced grittiness, desperation and human horror whole heartily. Liam Neeson was on top of his game, the secondary cast was on the money and the flick had me by the collar the whole way. Granted it was predictable, a bit too long, sometimes hard to watch and the ending did not act as the catharsis it should have in terms of justice being served; but I still dug it. If you’re looking for fun times at the movies, this is not it, but if you’re craving a character study that revels in its own grimness – knock yourself out! I need a drink and so will you after this one. CHEERS!
Matt Scudder was adapted to film before via 8 Million Ways to Die in 1986. Scutter was then played by Jeff Bridges. I never saw it, gotta see it now!
Author Lawrence Block had this to say about the casting of Neeson: "Readers often ask who'd be my ideal Matt Scudder, and I usually change the subject. But now it's safe to tell you that, 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."