Friday, September 19, 2014

A Walk Among the Tombstones – Review

A Walk Among the Tombstones – Review

Matt Scudder (Liam Neeson) is a big city retired police officer who works for clients who needs his brand of unlicensed private investigative skills of getting to the truth but doing so by operating just outside the law. Matt at his core is fundamentally a morally and dedicated man who is also an equally slightly troubled, reserve and cautious man, especially when it comes to his work. He is just as leery and suspicious of potential new clients as the people they want him to ultimately investigate.

In the late 1990’s on a dreary rainy night while literally about to having a bite to eat at a diner, an acquaintance of Matt’s approaches him to ask if he would be interested in meeting his brother about a potential job. When Matt agrees he discovers that his client Kenny Kristo is a big time heroin dealer who recently had his wife abducted for a ransom demand of $400,000 and of course the proverbial cliché requirement of never telling the police or “she’s is dead”. When he dutifully complied with the abductors demands they got their money but they also brutally killed his wife anyway. Now, steep in anger Kenny wants revenge and he has solicited Matt to find out who exactly these guys are so that he can “deal with them” on his own. And with that “A Walk among the Tombstones” proceeds down a creepy path of a twist and turn - cat and mouse pursuit of murderous psychopathic deviants who seem to have uniquely started to target drug dealers for their crime spree. What’s more troublingly is that they seem to enjoy their sinister lively hood of torturing and killing as much as their love for the money itself.

Once again Liam Neeson proves again for better “Shindler’s List “or for worse ‘Taken 2” why he is one of the more superb actors working today. With him in virtually every scene from the beginning to the end in “Tombstone” Neeson’s natural on screen charisma, common man smarts, moral integrity and masculine toughness is on full display. What was especially good to see Neeson do in this film by paraphrasing the line from “Taken” is to take his “particular set of skills” and dial them back a bit. While showing only a minuscule vestige of his more over the top “Taken” character dramatic flash, here he offers up our lead “Matt with a more sensitive, humorous and vulnerable side here. Matt is more thought out, more fully developed and a more thoroughly realized character while also being a bit knowingly flawed about his short comings as well. He offers just enough vulnerability to his “Matt” character that it feels both authentically sensitive and naturally tough all in the same package.

What I liked about “Tombstone” is that it has a bit of throwback quality to its story. Not a lot of action, instead in its place we see a pure one man doing the hard leg work police procedural kind of drama. We watch as “Matt” goes meticulously, patiently but also aggressively to work on this new case without any GPS tracking devices or high tech devices for him to rely upon. No he is just an old school following up on snippets of evidence, casing buildings, watching people as possible suspects, asking the right questions, using his well-honed police instincts and occasionally busting down a door or two without a warrant kind of guy. Think TV’s Lt. Columbo with an attitude.

As for the film itself, I found it to have the look and feel of raw chilling sadistic film noir.  At times some of the scenes were very emotionally hard to get through, not because it was graphic per se, but rather for its intense level of emotional psychological brutality that is directed and enveloped into the story itself. I felt a bit dirty watching this film as we see early on the principle shadowy criminals slowly exposed to actual light in their almost gleefully dark and devilish delight in not only carefully choosing their victims but their pure nasty unforgiving satisfaction in torturing them as well. And while you don’t see any scenes like this on the screen itself, it just sure felt that way.

“Tombstone” is far from perfect. Some of the dialogue seemed useless - pointless, decisions made by some of the characters seemed momentarily preposterous and ultimately from my perspective it needed a script rewrite here and there so as to improve on the overall plot. Still, ‘Tombstone” is a solid very creepy thrilling piece of entertainment with solid acting performances all across the board. But the real strength of this film is the acting prowess of Neeson who takes what could have been a film with a non-descript feel to it (without him in it) and in turn elevate the material to a pretty intelligent effort.

3 – 1/4 Stars

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