Starring Liam Neeson and Dan Stevens, ‘A Walk Among The Tombstones’ is a thriller based on the novel by Lawrence Block. It follows recovered alcoholic and ex-cop turned unlicensed private investigator Matthew Scudder as he navigates his way through a dark and twisted missing persons case involving two sick killers and a host of drug dealers.
I was really excited to see this film when I saw the trailer. Ever since I saw Prisoners, I’ve been waiting to see another dark, tense thriller in a similar vein. Scott Frank’s thriller seemed like it had a good chance to be just that, based on the source material and dark moody atmosphere the trailer suggested. Well, after leaving the cinema, I had mixed feelings.
The first thing I noticed about the film was that it’s mood and atmosphere were not quite what was expecting. At least not initially. There was a lot more daylight, and much more light-hearted humor. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I was in the mood for darkness, and right from the start I wasn’t getting it. Now, as the film went on, the mood certainly got a lot darker and a little more serious, and after about the half-way point I felt much more invested. But unfortunately, the earlier portion of the proceedings just jaded me a little and I had a tough time recovering. A film like Prisoners was exactly what we all expected, for 100% of it’s viewing time. That’s what made it such a punch in the face (I mean that in the best possible way).
The acting in the film was solid. Unfortunately, it’s two leads, Neeson and Stevens, are both British men trying to do American accents. Granted, they were serviceable, particularly Stevens’, but unfortunately when you’ve watched a man posh it up on Downtown Abbey for a few years it is difficult to take the hard guy with the New York accent real serious. The villains were suitably villainous, and did add a real nastiness to the film which was certainly unsettling. David Harbour really does make a great psycho. However, the T.J. character, played by a former X-Factor contestant, was one that I really didn’t like. An orphan 13 year old mixed up in a sick murder case is just not feasible, I’m sorry. Plus, any man who allows the boy to take part in a hostage-handover is not a good man. I think what we have here is an example of a character who is more suited to the book format. For some reason those kinds of characters just work there. They just don’t work in movies. It was a really tough pill to swallow and really damaged my experience to be honest.
The plot to the film was interesting, and moved along quickly for the most part. It had enough twists and turns to keep me interested, but no huge shockers or reveals, largely because the villains are revealed very early on. I never like it when this happens, as I like a mystery thriller more than a pure thriller, and I think the same can be said here. It wasn’t awful this way or anything, and there were still details to be uncovered, but I’d be interested to see if the novel did the same or whether this was a choice in the screenplay.
The films presentation was good and there were some great shots, and visual devices that added a thrill here and there. However, what I didn’t love was that the film didn’t have any kind of distinct style. It’s techniques were almost random, and while individually they were fine, I couldn’t get a feel for the movie and what kind of vibe the director was trying to present. There was narration at random moments, but not consistently. There were odd cuts to the killers that seemed strange and out of place. Then there were a couple dreadful good guy clichés that just didn’t fit the mood of the film. I guess you could say the film was not the sum of it’s parts.
All in all, the film was a solid noir style thriller, which had some excellent moments, and a very good last third. But unfortunately, despite another solid showing from Liam Neeson and some fantastic source materials, perhaps due to my high expectations, ‘A Walk Among The Tombstones’ failed to become anything more than just pretty good.