A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES MOVIE REVIEW

Fans of the hardboiled detective,rejoice. Screenwriter-director Scott Frank và actor Liam Neeson, adapting thesplendid work of crime novelist Lawrence Block, have brought a great one to lớn thescreen in high, bracing style. “A Walk Among The Tombstones” not only doesjustice to one of Block’s most soulful creations, ex-cop và recovering alcoholicturned very unlicensed private dick (“I vì chưng favors for people, và they give megifts,” is how he puts it) Matthew Scudder, it stages, single-handed, a bracingrevival of a kind of genre movie that many of us have been mourning. That is, acrime drama that isn’t all bang-bang and chop-chop. Not that such movies don’toffer their pleasures. Hell, Liam Neeson himself has been a welcome feature inmany of them. But fans of the likes of “Jackie Brown” & “Out of Sight,” notto mention older, more classical fare such as “The Maltese Falcon,” “Murder, MySweet,” etc., have been feeling pretty starved in the contemporary movieclimate. “A Walk Among The Tombstones” provides us a very substantial meal.


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The movie begins in 1991, depictinga very bad day for still-on-the-force Scudder, in a scene of brutal intensityand surprise. It’s not the first such scene. After moving to 1999, & a NewYork thành phố rather amusingly in the grip of Y2K panic, và a sober & dourScudder getting reluctantly drawn into a peculiar kidnap-and-murder case,director Frank keeps the tension at a steady, insistent simmer even as he’scarefully building his characters. When things come to lớn a boil, Frank doesn’tkid around. The story revolves around a couple of sickos who’ve been making sportof kidnapping & ransoming the wives of various drug dealers and traffickersin the city. Because their prey are related to lớn criminals, bringing the policein is a vexed option for the victims; and because the bad guys are sickos, oncethey get their loot they don’t return the victim. It’s an even more twistedoperation than what I’m describing, and Frank depicts just enough of thedetails to lớn get the viewer’s stomach churning, & also khổng lồ understand the angerand indignation building up in the ever-stoic Scudder, whose personal hell canonly be kept at bay by not succumbing khổng lồ those emotions. As the kidnappers upthe ante và make their latest victim a 13-year-old daughter of a drugkingpin…well, the whole thing is likely khổng lồ cause dropped jaws & possiblydetached movie theater armrests.

This isn’t the first time Scudder’sbeen portrayed on screen: that was in the sadly misbegotten 1986 OliverStone/Hal Ashby collaboration “Eight Million Ways to Die.” “Tombstones” rebootsthe character và gets him right. Not just physically. Neeson capturesScudder’s toughness, intelligence, world-weariness, but also his humanity andhumor. Doing research for the case, Scudder encounters an African-Americanhomeless teen named T.J. (nicely played by Brian “Astro” Bradley), with whom hestrikes up an unlikely but ultimately affecting friendship, making the kid asidekick of sorts; the movie depicts their affinity in a way that’s utterlyunpatronizing and convincing. Frank also takes real risks in the movie’sclimactic showdown scene; instead of staging a straightforward kích hoạt setpiece, he staggers the events và intercuts them with a defining scene inScudder’s development as a person. The movie ponders how Scudder’s spiritualitywill hold up under exposure to lớn a particularly monumental example of evil.Movies such as “Taken,” as diverting as they can be, don’t ask the viewer to beconcerned for the soul of the protagonist. “A Walk Among The Tombstones” does,and so besides being a dynamite thriller, it gives something not insubstantialas an extra.


Drama

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Crime
Action
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Glenn Kenny

Glenn Kenny was the chief film critic of Premiere magazine for almost half of its existence. He has written for a host of other publications và resides in Brooklyn. Read his answers lớn our Movie Love Questionnaire here.