A Walk Among the Tombstones, 2014.
Directed by Scott Frank.
Starring Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, Boyd Holbrook, Sebastian Roché, and Brian “Astro” Bradley.
Ex-Policeman Matt Scudder helps criminals find a pair of serial-killers that are torturing and murdering drug-dealer’s wives.
Liam Neeson has had somewhat of a career resurgence lately, always playing a former alcoholic detective that’s down on his luck that also happens to be a major badass with weapons and hand-to-hand combat. No one would argue that he is being type-casted into films at this point, but there is a major audience misunderstanding with his latest role in A Walk Among The Tombstones.
Based on the novel by revered novelist Lawrence Block, A Walk Among The Tombstones is a crime noir thriller set in the seediest parts of New York before the turn of the new millennium. Neeson plays an unlicensed private investigator whom was once a former cop, and is hired by a wealthy drug dealer to find the people responsible that kidnapped and murdered his wife.
Now before you think Liam Neeson is going to go all Taken on the criminals, you have to understand that despite the fact that the character isn’t outside the norm of who he has been portraying, the depiction here couldn’t be any more different. Simply put, this isn’t a movie about busting heads, kicking ass, and taking names, but rather one of the most unnerving outlooks on senseless crime there is.
Detective Matt comes across a lot of faces in his investigation and everyone has one trait in common; they are all freaking weird individuals. The only exception is a homeless African-American child that wants to be a sidekick to Matt. On that note, if you’ve ever wanted to hear Liam Neeson speak slang with a poor black child, then this is your movie. Back to the other characters though, everyone here is either a drug dealer, kidnapper, rapist, or something else awful. All of the characters even have an astounding aura of creepiness to them that it gets to the point where you feel so dirty watching the movie that you want to take a shower immediately afterwards.
Furthermore, it is this whopping amount of subtlety that sets A Walk Among The Tombstones apart from other films in its genre. There is not a lot of violence or grisly images, but rather a “tell, don’t show” approach. Sometimes you don’t need to see what is happening to understand how horrifying it is, and this movie understands that, wielding atmosphere as its secret weapon. The killers themselves don’t have much screen-time to showcase just how deplorable they are as human beings, but they don’t need it. Everything from their facial expressions, to their mannerisms. to the coldness in their voice is absolutely chilling, and enough to get across that there are some truly twisted and disturbed people roaming our streets.
With that said, A Walk Among The Tombstones isn’t without faults, as it might be stacked with too many characters. From the perspective of someone reading the novel, I can see how something like this would be a good thing, but here unfortunately it feels that Writer/Director Scott Frank doesn’t quite know how to split up the screen presence of all the film’s players. There are just too many points in the film where key characters go missing, only to pop up again when it’s convenient for the story. In addition to that, it also doesn’t feel like everyone’s character wasn’t as fleshed out or as detailed as it could have been. None of the characters are necessarily bad or annoying, but you can’t help but feel there’s probably a lot of information from the novel that didn’t make the film adaptation.
Also, the last 15 minutes essentially remove all of the wits from the movie’s characters up until that point, and decides to just depict everyone with the stupidity driven personality you would find in a slasher film. It is pretty befuddling how some of these events play out towards the end, and you can’t help but feel the movie just wants to kill off a few characters or have some sort of a climactic fight, just for the sake of having one.
None of that drags A Walk Among The Tombstones down too far though, as it ultimately has one of the most unsettling and creepiest depictions of serial killers ever. Also, a quieter and dialed back version of action star Liam Neeson makes for a captivating counterpart to a pair of senseless murders. Again though, what makes A Walk Among The Tombstones truly memorable is just how creepy it actually is without resorting to gratuitous violence or shock value.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. He currently writes for Flickering Myth, We Got This Covered, and Wrestle Enigma. Follow me on Twitter.