I know what you’re saying, “Oh, look, Liam Neeson in another Taken, just with a different title.” Well, not so, good readers and movie fans. A Walk Among The Tombstones is a mystery crime drama based on a book of the same name by Lawrence Block. In fact, turns out there are many novels in this series that focus on Matt Scudder.
A Walk Among The Tombstones has Matt Scudder, an alcoholic ex-NYPD cop, working as an unlicensed private investigator, reluctantly looking into a drug traffickers kidnapped wife. Even after paying the abductors, they killed her anyway. Scudder feels those responsible have done this before, and will do so again. When his suspicions are proved correct, he must try to play the twisted kidnappers game as he helps to secure the safe return of another man’s daughter.
There’s a more deliberate, old school pacing to Tombstones. Liam Neeson’s recent films such as Taken, The Grey, Non-Stop, and the like, all have a sort of empty calorie feel to them. Not bad (to me), just more fluff entertainment. Because let’s face it, they were pretty entertaining, but you didn’t have to look too deep. And they pretty much employ that contemporary camera style and sensibility we see a lot now: fast-paced, lots of blurry action shots, etc. But A Walk Among The Tombstones is more carefully paced, a bit more like a thought-out crime drama that people don’t seem to make as much anymore – at least not in the past 15 years or so. It is a bit slow in the middle and took some getting used to. But the moderate pacing certainly gives you time to appreciate the beautiful cinematography and lighting. It paints a cold picture of Brooklyn in winter. Also, the fact that the camera didn’t cause you to have an epileptic fit was actually a good thing. Here’s a film that you can follow, plot-wise AND visually. That’s a fine change of pace.
Great acting all around here, especially the absorbing Neeson as Matt Scudder. He really captures this intelligent, world-weary tough guy perfectly. And he does so while managing to keep his humanity – and even some humor. Writer/director Scott Frank gives us a bit of character development – particularly near the end – that some of Neeson’s latest films haven’t really given us, therefore giving Scudder a bit more arc. Frank seems to have actually read the source material and developed the character with that in mind. My, a breath of fresh air.
There’s a tone of noir to A Walk Among The Tombstones, but not too heavily stylized. Maybe not as much as Scott Frank’s first film, The Lookout, starring none other than JGL himself, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt. But there is definitely a grimness to this film. It’s certainly not a musical comedy, to be sure. Although, I’d probably still watch – and enjoy it – if it were. You know I like the macabre.
There are some minor things that seem out of place here, though. In what seems to be an attempt at adding some socially relevant messages, there is a scene that is clearly about gun violence/control (which is weird for a pretty dark and violent film like this), and one about sickle cell anemia that doesn’ t really affect the plot at all, so it sort of sticks out like a sore thumb. Weird to have scenes like those when you could likely cut them out and not really change the story at all. But these were pretty small things in the overall scheme of things.
A Walk Among The Tombstones feels like a film that could have been made anywhere from the 1970’s to the 1990’s. I actually found that to be a good thing. Despite some superfluous scenes, I still liked this and give it three and a half kittenhands.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, now aware that there IS going to be another Tak3n film. Yes, that’s how it’s written on iMdb. Yeah, the ‘e’ is a ‘3’. That better not be the most original thing about the film.