Thursday Night Movie Club
A Walk Among the Tombstones
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Release Date: 19 September 2014

Director: Scott Frank
Liam Neeson
Maurice Compte
Patrick McDade
Luciano Acuna Jr.
Hans Marrero
Laura Birn
David Harbour
Adam David Thompson
Kim Rosen
Dan Stevens
Eric Nelsen
Jon Goracy
Razane Jammal
Stephanie Andujar
Al Nazemian
Boyd Holbrook
Danielle Rose Russell
Matt Scudder
Danny Ortiz
Bar Owner
Dominican Banger #1
Dominican Banger #2
Leila Alvarez
Waitress - Jenny
Kenny Kristo
Bag Boy
Carrie Kristo
Manager - Roland
Peter Kristo
A Walk Among the Tombstones movie poster A Walk Among the Tombstones movie poster A Walk Among the Tombstones movie poster
Liam Neeson as Matt Scuddr in A Walk Among the Tombstones.A Walk Among the Tombstones is a creepy, eerie film. Director Scott Frank shot the film with dread coursing through every frame. There is no happy moment in the movie.

Matt Scudder (Liam Neeson) is a former New York City police detective who is fighting his own demons. He is haunted by an episode in which he was off duty, drinking coffee and whiskey. The bartender is killed during a botched robbery. Scudder chases the men outside and shoots all three suspects. He is decorated for his achievements. Yet, something went horribly wrong!

Now, Scudder is an "unlicensed" private detective. Meaning, he performs "favors" for people who then see fit to "give" him gifts. His client list is filled with unsavory characters who would rather not "officially" involve the police.

Kenny Kristo (Dan Stevens) asks Scudder to look into the kidnapping/murder of his wife Carrie (Razene Jammal). Kristo paid the ransom but the kidnappers still killed his wife. Kristo wants Scudder to find the men responsible so he can enact his vengeance. Scudder refuses. Kristo is persistent. After telling Scudder the details of the crime, Kristo leaves a tape recorder containing the audio of the brutality Carrie suffered before being murdered.

Liam Neeson as Matt Scuddr in A Walk Among the Tombstones.With nothing to go on, Scudder walks the locations to get a better idea of the crime. While researching the crime through older newspapers, Scudder comes to a shocking conclusion. The kidnapping/ransom/murder of Carrie Kristo is not an isolated case. These criminals have struck before and will do so again. Oddly, connecting all of the victims is the men are involved in drug trafficking. They are the percect patsies!

One question bothers Scudder: How do the kidnappers/murderers know that these men are drug traffickers? The victims were not chosen at random. The answer is even more disturbing and involves the local D.E.A. who are turning a blind-eye to the crimes. The traffickers got what they deserved. Maybe so, but the female victims did not!

A Walk Among the Tombstones is Liam Neeson's film to carry the load. He does so in a cold, dispassionate, steady demeanor. Scudder begins the case by studying the crime scenes. He doesn't say much. Thankfully, Scudder has no annoying voice-over commentary. He follows the clues in a logically.

Liam Neeson as Matt Scuddr in A Walk Among the Tombstones.Director Scott Frank artfully/visually shows what Scudder is thinking. Frank skillfully merges Scudder's instincts and his gut reactions using visual storytelling. As Scudder explains, detective work is part instinct, part dumb luck. The audience must make the same connections/conclusions that Scudder makes using only crime scene photos. Talking to witnesses gives Scudder/the audience a better understanding of the complex mysteries. There should be no surprise when Scudder follows cemetary caretaker Loogan (Olafur Darri Olafsson). There is something not quite right with his testimony.

As the story unfolds, Scudder is reminded of the twelve steps to recovery from Alcoholics Anonymous. The steps act as commentary on the drama. Not all of the twelve steps are important to the story, but several are very important to Scudder and Peter Kristo (Boyd Holbrook), Kenny Kristo's drug-addicted brother. Peter meets Scudder after an AA meeting and asks if Scudder would speak with his brother.

Olafur Darri Olafsson and Liam Neeson in A Walk Among the Tombstones.The dialog is minimlistic. Scudder's questions are terse, direct, to-the-point. The answers he receives are equally terse and direct. Questions are asked only once. Answers are given once. Some answers corroborate previous testimony, some do not. Result: the audience must "pay attention"!

The more Scudder learns, the creepier the film becomes. An eye witness recounts what happened to Leila Alvarez (Laura Birn). Leila is the unknown blonde woman from the opening credit sequence. Scott Frank could have shot the scene in full, gory detail. Instead, Frank recounts more of what the eyewitness heard rather than saw. Frank focuses on the dialog of the sadist in the moments before he uses his knife. The scene is uncomfortably bone-chilling.

A Walk Among the Tombstones.A few minor missteps from screenwriter/director Scott Frank, based upon the novel by Lawrence Block, handcuff the film. A hostage exchange takes place in a cemetary, hence the title. Cemetary scenes have been filmed before and there is nothing new here. The ending involves the "not-quite-dead" routine also used before. Stephen Spielberg would have trouble filming these scenes in an original fashion.

Overall, the screenplay is quite clever, the sense of dread is powerful, the mystery complex yet solveable. For those who love a good mystery, the story unfolds slowly and builds as more clues are discovered. Elevating the screenplay is the subtlety behind the criminal's one fatal mistake. The mistake leads to Liam Neeson's best acting sequence in the film as Scudder "negotiates" with the criminals for the safe release of their captive. Scudder is the "new player". He knows exactly what the criminals will say, and especially what they will do. Neeson nails the scene. The bad guys are duly concerned.

Dan Stevens and Liam Neeson in A Walk Among the Tombstones.Director Frank also keeps the acting to a minimum. Any amount of over emoting would turn the film on its head and probably result in rip-roaring laughter. The actors go through the scenes holding their emotions in check which better serves to build the suspense and undercut the seething hatred, rage, helplessness and burning vengeance lurking just under Kenny Kristo's skin. The same things felt by Danny Ortiz (Maurice Compte) and Yuri Landau (Sebastian Roché).

Fun? A Walk Among the Tombstones is not fun, unless you have a warped sense of reality. The underlying mystery is a breath of fresh... er stale(?) air. Criminals prey on drug traffickers because they are the last people who will call the police for help. Like AA, the criminal's identities are annonymous. No one will be able to track them down for revenge. The criminals are free and clear to repeat their crimes over and over and over. If the heat gets too hot, they can just leave town. Unlike Alcoholics Annonymous, the detective's job is to reveal one's annonymity, to make known the unknown, to put a name to a face!