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A Walk Among the Tombstones (8/10)

by Tony Medley

Running time 113 minutes.

Not for children.

Lawrence Block is a prolific writer of mysteries, more than 50. Iíve read many of his books and the quality ranges from very good to mediocre. He has several protagonists, one of whom is Matthew Scudder, an ex-NYPD detective who is an unlicensed private investigator operating just outside the law. Scudder has appeared in 17 books and a full length collection of short stories. This film is based on his 1992 novel of the same name.

Liam Neeson plays Scudder, and he is a much more accurate representation of Blockís protagonist than 5-7 Tom Cruise is of Lee Childís 6-5 240 lb. protagonist, Jack Reacher.  Scudder is a former alcoholic who has been reformed through AA. The film opens with the incident that finally drove him from the bottle. It then jumps to 1999, many years later, and his meeting with Kenny Kristo (Dan Stevens, known by many for his performances in TVís Downton Abbey), a drug dealer whose wife, Carrie (Flying Blindís Razane Jammal) has been kidnapped and who wants to retain Scudder to find the bad guys.

And the bad guys, Ray (David Harbour) and Albert (Adam David Thompson) are really creepy in their cold-blooded savagery. In fact, the only criticism I have of the movie are the few scenes showing the relatively graphic torture of one of their victims, Leila Alverez (Laura Birn, who gives a captivating performance in her short time on the screen, one that you wonít soon forget) and the way they taunt her while they are doing it. While this certainly set the situation that they are both irredeemably hateful, putting it in such explicit terms was gratuitously excessive and risks restricting the audience to which it will appeal. I found the scenes extraordinarily off-putting.

Ably written and directed by Scott Frank, the outstanding gritty cinematography of New York City (Brooklyn, eight days were night shoots in Brooklynís GreenWood Cemetery) by Mihai Malaimare, Jr. captures the darkness of the story and the bleakness, degradation, and dilapidation of New York in the winter.

There are fine supporting performances by ”lafur Darri ”lafsson as James Loogan, a cemetery custodian, and Brian ďAstroĒ Bradley, a rapper who plays TJ, a homeless teenaged artist whom Scudder meets in the library.

Almost annually since his breakout hit, Taken, in 2008, Neeson has come out with a terrific thriller and this one does not disappoint.

September 16, 2014

 

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