home | index
A Walk Among The Tombstones (2014)
Pulled from the pages of pulp novelist Lawrence Block's gritty and unflinching same-named urban thriller, A Walk Among the Tombstones drops an uneasy Scudder into an unraveling and escalating psychological game of cat and mouse against a duo of brash serial thrill-killers who kidnapped for ransom and then butchered the wife of vengeful local drug dealer Kenny Kristo (played by Dan Stevens). Scudder soon learns these psychos are using DEA criminal files to cherry pick their victims, and that time is running out before they strike again.
Acclaimed American crime fiction writer Lawrence Block's long-running Matthew Scudder series began in 1976 with The Sins of the Fathers. Block's honours include four Mystery Writers of America Edgar Awards for Best Short Story and his ninth Matthew Scudder novel, A Dance at the Slaughterhouse, won an Edgar for Best Novel in 1992. Published that same year, A Walk Among the Tombstones is reportedly Block's 10th of 18 Scudder potboilers so far.
I had high hopes for this screening. Harrison Ford was apparently cast as Scudder early on, but then Neeson stepped in as pretty much Hollywood's only other obvious shoe-in for playing this fractured and precariously moral aged gumshoe scraping lowlifes off the mean streets of New York City. I expected a kind of Death Wish (1974) redux refined by an author whose fans compared to Raymond Chandler. Plus, loaded up with a ready-made canon of well-received source material to cull from for further film adaptations, A Walk Among the Tombstones looked from the outside like the start of a beautiful franchise. Something to look forward to. Finally. Silly me.
Unfortunately, writer/director Scott Frank's interpretation plays out more like a clichéd prime time manhunt from a bygone era. Neeson's performance is wooden and uncompelling, essentially phoning in a foul-mouthed Robert Mitchum impersonation while relying more on screen caché than anything provided by the script. A Walk Among the Tombstones also tries far too hard to be edgy within the context of emulating '90s crime dramas starring the likes of Brian Cox or Steven Seagal. Quaint and cheesy, it's a filmmaking direction that ultimately wanders completely out of step with a contemporary movie audience accustomed to sharper pacing and fresher plot choices from this noir genre.
On the up-side, Frank makes clever use of cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr.'s technical skills in capturing shorthand glimpses of character nuance throughout. One example stylishly demonstrates Scudder's unspoken torment. Another visually reveals how devoid of empathy these killers are - even to each other. It's also fun reliving now-goofy aspects of the last millenniums final year, such as the Y2K scare and TJ's street slang. Sadly, those novelties aren't enough to sustain interest in the over-all uninvested, talent-wasting performances from this cast that are further bogged down by scenes of dull and dated suspense. Even the gory stuff is boring.
It's truly a punch to the gut that A Walk Among the Tombstones is such a butt-dragging big sleep of misfired potential. Yes, Neeson has starred in a lot of entertaining tough guy movies lately but this ain't one of 'em. Do yourself a favour and duck this dud. Reviewed 09/14, © Stephen Bourne, moviequips.ca.
A Walk Among the Tombstones is
rated 14A by the Ontario Film Review Board, citing occasional
gory/grotesque images, coarse language, slurs, sexual references,
nudity in a non-sexual context, illustrated or verbal references
to drugs, alcohol or tobacco, occasional upsetting or disturbing
scenes, substance abuse, sexual innuendo, and violent acts shown
in clear, unequivocal and realistic detail with blood and tissue
damage, and is rated 13+ by la Régie du Cinéma
Stephen Bourne's Movie Quips © Stephen Bourne. Moviequips.ca and moviequips.com are the property of Stephen Bourne. All content of this website is owned by Stephen Bourne, unless obviously not (such as possible reference links, movie synopsis and/or posters featured under the terms of fair use) or attributed otherwise. This website is based in Ottawa, Canada.