Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Walk Among The Tombstones

Year: 2014
Director: Scott Frank
Cast: Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, Boyd Holbrook, Brian 'Astro' Bradley

Plot: A private investigator is hired by a drug dealer to find the men who kidnapped and murdered his wife.

Review: I'm all for a thriller featuring a hero with a dark past and a bunch of nasty killers as the villains. A Walk Among The Tombstones is one such thriller, though it's not quite as perfect as it ought to be.

Liam Neeson plays Matt Scudder, a former cop who is now an unlicensed private investigator in 1989 New York. A drug dealer named Kenny Kristo hires Scudder to find the men who kidnapped and chopped up his wife into many little pieces. With the help of a young street kid named TJ and some good old fashioned detective work, Scudder finds himself on the trail of two men who take pleasure in kidnapping young women and torturing them before killing them.

Director Scott Frank, who also penned the screenplay, is mostly a writer throughout his career, and it shows. From the looks of it, he put quite a bit of the novel the film is based on into his picture. As a result, the entire film feels oversaturated, filled with scenes that don't really need to be there. The film is supposed to be a thriller, but it's filled with more words than suspense, which unfortunately works against it.

Thankfully, the cast make the experience somewhat worthwhile. Neeson is perfect as the brooding hero Scudder, who is as flawed as they come, being a recovering alcoholic who is also recovering from a bad shooting incident eight years prior. Dan Stevens is also great as Kristo, allowing viewers to almost sympathize with his loss, but just short of fully doing so because of his profession. Credit also goes to David Harbour and Adam David Thompson as the two killers, doing a near excellent job playing a bunch of sickos here. Credit also goes to Brian 'Astro' Bradley (apparently he's from X-Factor) as the street kid TJ, who provides some humour in his conversations with Scudder.

Scott Frank does manage to get a few things right. His film looks dull in the day and rainy at night, fitting the mood of the story. The opening credit sequence is also unique, you'll have to see it for yourself to know what I mean. His use of Black Hole Sun, a song originally done by Soundgarden (remade here by Swann featuring Nouela) in the trailer and closing credits is a wise move, reflecting the darkness of the film very well. The film overall doesn't shy away from violence, which is another good thing about it. However, a better job of editing, pacing and choosing important dialogue would have made the film sharper, more suspenseful and overall more effective.

Overall, A Walk Among The Tombstones is a decent enough thriller. With Liam Neeson in the lead, I was hoping to see a gem here, but unfortunately it doesn't quite measure up. (6/10)

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