A Walk Among The Tombstones

November 6th, 2014 by Vomitron

A Walk Among The Tombstones   AWATT onesheet poster 83x120 thriller reviews reviews drama action Director: Scott Frank
Writer: Scott Frank, based on the novel by Lawrence Block
Release year:
2014

Crime does not pay. Or, well, it might for a while, until your money’s gone. Then you’ll get your wife back. In pieces.

Unlicensed private detective Matthew Scudder (Liam Neeson) has been through some rough waters of his own. His reputation draws the attention of a drug trafficking kingpin, who wants to hire Scudder to track down the people responsible for kidnapping his wife. Against better judgement, Scudder accepts the job, leading him onto the trail of two misogynistic serial killers targetting women across the city. When things become more bleak in the process of bringing the culprits to justice, Scudder has the choice to make it a federal matter or join forces with the lesser of two evils: the aid of wealthy criminals, a drug addict and a young vagrant.

In case you’re wondering, the other (worse) evil would not be joining forces with the FBI, but instead: hanging out and having fun with the two serial killers. But hey, it’s Liam Neeson. He’s not going to do that.

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Scott Frank is an interesting fellow. He started his film career in the early ’90s as a writer and managed almost from the get-go to chalk down some impressive screenplays for reasonable box office successes like ‘Dead Again’ (1991), ‘Malice’ (1994) and ‘Get Shorty’ (1993). All this establishing early on that he’s well comfortable writing within the crime/thriller genre (with or without comedy in the mix). In more recent years, while still cranking out succesful screenplays, Frank turned to directing. And with him having adapted books into screenplays before, it would come as not much of a surprise that he would be the right man for the job to turn Lawrence Block‘s similarly title ‘A Walk Among The Tombstones’ novel into a movie, helming the project as a writer/director this time.

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So, as to be expected, the screenplay is good. At least on a technical level. You don’t have to like it. You can yawn from how it wallows in the conventions of the crime thriller genre. You can even get annoyed by what some of the characters say or do. But one thing you can’t say, is that the film is badly scripted. It’s pretty much a textbook example on how to write a decent film of the ‘detective has to catch and stop the serial killer before his latest victim dies’ variety. It’s as good a film as any other good example of this type you can think of. The flipside being, of course, that we’ve all seen this before. Not that bigtime Tinseltown producers ever cared about that. It’s a safe bet, and as such, it pays off. Especially with star power Liam Neeson in the mix. Take him out of the equation, however, and you’ll have little left to rely on, since the rest of the cast is not likely to ring any copper bells with anyone. Most notable among the supporting cast, is Boyd Holbrook. He turns in a pretty pleasing turn as drug addict artist Peter Kristo (or at the very least he knows how to perform the part, looking more and more like crap as the film progresses). Peter is the younger brother of Kenny Kristo (Dan Stevens), the wealthy criminal who hires private investigator Scudder (Neeson). The casting is good, the performances adequate, and Neeson delivers.

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Another thing worthy of note, is that the script is rich with characters. And they all carry some weight or at least contribute their two cents to the story. One thing could make you wonder, though: What about Scudder’s ex-wife? We never get to hear what went wrong there. Fairly convinced that the book will have an explanation for that as well, but it was decided to drop that while adapting into a screenplay. And in all honesty, Neeson‘s character didn’t even need that particular background story (most of the other characters have one already anyway). It also adds a bit of mystery to his persona, leaving some things to the imagination of the viewer, instead of piecing together a protagonist made of too many walking clichés (the ex-alcoholic angle was already enough).

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Neeson‘s character is established greatly during the film’s opening sequence, which turns out to be a little flash back story (with a twist later on in the film). Again, a textbook example on how to do it right. Then the opening credits come on, with its images suddenly changing the tone and feel of things, and then offering a twist of its own too. And that’s at least something we haven’t seen opening credits do too much before in any film. After a good start, the film does hold up. It’s a well-polished, good-paced ride that unfortunately is too comfortable with driving lanes on big Hollywood avenues only. It would have been better to have seen it take a few short cuts and unexpected turns. Sure, there’s brutal subject matter in the mix, with what all happens to the female victims. It puts a grim twist on an otherwise fairly standard crime story. And the story is seasoned with fight scenes, shoot-outs and ghastly discoveries. So, it’s all there. But the main problem lies with what happens to certain people and whom all lives and dies in the end. It all smells a bit too much like political correctness and moral approval. If you can handle that, then surely you won’t really be disappointed when the end credits roll. In its defense, you could say ‘A Walk Among The Tombstones’ is a tense thriller with its heart at the right place. They couldn’t even have wrapped up the ending in a better – read: more correct – way if they’d have tried. Whether you’ll like swallowing it, will largely depend on your own taste in mainstream cinema, naturally.


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Trailer on YouTube.

 

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