A Walk Among the Tombstones

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I prefer movies based on book series over the constant remakes and reboots. This film is based on the series of popular novels by Lawrence Block.

Scott Frank, who directed and adapted the screenplay, was a name that excited me. He wrote the screenplay for Get Shorty, and a fun Tom Cruise sci-fi flick called Minority Report. The first movie he wrote and directed was the underrated The Lookout (Netflix it and thank me later). Well, Frank dropped the ball on this one.

The premise had potential to be interesting. It involves a private detective working for some drug dealers, whose wives are kidnapped. The first of many detective/cop clichés turn this into a run-of-the-mill story that makes you wonder…is this another Taken movie?

Matthew Scudder (Liam Neeson) is a former police detective that was drunk on the job when he shot three guys robbing the bar that gives cops free drinks (nothing makes cops angrier). One of the bullets hits an innocent bystander, but he doesn’t get into trouble for that. I wasn’t sure why he didn’t get into trouble for shooting at a car driving away, or a bad guy that was running away and shot in the back, but…cops follow different rules in movies. Anyway, as a PI working on his own, Scudder meets a guy (Robert Boyd Holbrook) at an AA meeting that wants him to do a job. It’s for his drug dealing brother. Of course, Scudder has standards. He refuses the money and walks out. Yet when he realizes the drug dealer had his wife kidnapped and killed, and really seems to care, he agrees to take the case.

While doing research in the library, Scudder sees a homeless boy being harassed by a librarian for sleeping there. This kid (Brian ‘Astro’ Bradley) was adorable in the family friendly Earth to Echo, but he’s a bit precocious in this. And it seems every 10 minutes Frank writes him some lines to garner more sympathy for his plight.

I wonder why we’re supposed to have sympathy for these drug dealers and their women being kidnapped. Well, until they kidnap the daughter of one (during one of the worst uses of a Donovan song in movie soundtrack history). Yet the scene right before that is fascinating. I love that Frank didn’t play it for laughs, but more for the absurd. Here are two men that live together. They aren’t gay, despite making biscuits and gravy together in the morning, both in their underwear. They just have bizarre, yet somewhat ordinary, lives. As oppose to the crazy killers that want to make a suit out of the skin of their victims or eat body parts. There was something refreshing and interesting about that scene and those characters.

There’s something that makes it really uncomfortable for me to watch criminals making snuff films in a movie. Sometimes in a film the shock value is needed, but here it was just disturbing, even though the violence was happening off camera.

The supporting cast is intriguing. Robert Boyd Holbrook (fiancé of Elizabeth Olsen) and Mark Consuelos (husband of Kelly Ripa) are in it. And one loony guy that works at the graveyard tends to pigeon coops and has a few interesting lines (before he takes the clichéd way out of these types of thrillers).

This movie gets bogged down with so many clichés and writing that tries too hard. The edits near the end with an AA meeting and a shoot-out were cringe worthy. A killer raping a woman while singing a Hollies song, just didn’t work.

That doesn’t mean they don’t have a few interesting things going on, or a few clever lines. I loved when Scudder is asking one drug dealer if he knows any other dealers. The reply: “Well, it’s not like we have a union or anything.”

A more interesting movie could’ve been made without Liam Neeson again cashing another $20 million paycheck beating people up, but showing this story from the killers’ perspective and with Neeson in a supporting role. Yet this will make $100 million dollars and Neeson will be back again next year…as a cop with a drinking problem, tracking down people down that have kidnapped women and children…and with a special set of skills that only an Irish actor over 60 possesses. Not sure what the title of the movie is, but rest assured, it will happen.

I’m giving this 1 ½ stars out of 5.

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