A Walk Among the Tombstones
dir-scr Scott Frank
prd Danny DeVito, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher, Tobin Armbrust, Brian Oliver
with Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, David Harbour, Adam David Thompson, Boyd Holbrook, Brian "Astro" Bradley, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Sebastian Roche, Danielle Rose Russell, Mark Consuelos, Maurice Compte, Frank De Julio
release US/UK 19.Sep.14
14/US Universal 1h55
A Walk Among the Tombstones
Detective work: Neeson and Bradley

stevens harbour holbrook
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
A Walk Among the Tombstones A gritty, urgent tone elevates the relatively simple storyline in this 1990s-set thriller. It also helps that the actors give darkly introspective performances to bring out their characters' moody emotions. As a result, filmmaker Frank manages to subvert the cliches even as he indulges in them.

Eight years after Matt (Neeson) gave up drinking and retired from being a cop, he's working as an unlicensed private eye in 1999 New York. His new client is Kenny (Stevens), a wealthy drug trafficker whose wife was killed by two mystery men (Harbour and Thompson). But Matt discovers that she's not their only victim, and there's a link between the murders. He also takes homeless teen TJ (Bradley) under his wing when he spots the boy's talent for detective work. And together they try to figure out who the next victim will be.

Frank directs this with a sometimes jarring mixture of deafening shootouts and earthy drama. Almost everything has a seriously grisly angle to it, from the ghastly kidnappings to the characters' inner torture. And all of this combines to hold the audience's interest in both the dark personal dramas as well as the larger mystery about two men kidnapping women then killing them even after a ransom has been paid.

Some plot points feel rather excessive (TJ has sickle cell anaemia), but the focussed filmmaking and acting keep things moving. Neeson combines his serious-actor cred with his action-hero persona, bouncing nicely off Bradley's quick-minded sidekick. Stevens is slick and compelling as the frantic husband, while Holbrook holds his own as Kenny's ex-alcoholic brother. There's also a wide range of smaller roles that add interest through tiny details, from Olafsson's evasive cemetery worker to Roche's harried Russian mobster.

On the other hand, the killers are almost supernaturally efficient in their work, which seems motivated only by cruel brutality. And since the film never bothers to make anything of the female characters, it sometimes seems like Frank is taking the killers' side. He certainly never makes much of the film's title; the idea that death surrounds us is never much more than a gimmick, as is the use of AA's 12 steps. But the film's slick weariness and jaded, abrasive characters make it impossible to look away.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, drugs 14.Aug.14

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... A Walk Among the Tombstones Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall