Monday, October 6, 2014

Film Review: A Walk Among the Tombstones

Copyright: Universal Pictures
As a film where violence resonates through every level, A Walk among the Tombstones left a lasting impression on me. 

On the surface, the movie is a version of the story seen in 8MM, and also one which shares some similar elements with it – these include a search for sadistic assailants, snuff films (although less prominently) and a deeply distraught but content man who isn’t overly keen on keeping himself in the realm of the living.

Based on a novel, the main narrative of the film starts with Mathew Scudder, an ex NYPD cop who is now (or better said then, because the film is set in 1999) an unlicensed private investigator, being offered a job to finding men who kidnapped the wife of a non-connected drug trafficker, and then killed her in spite of the fact that ransom money was delivered. Scudder is first hesitant, but accepts after learning more details about the gruesome nature of the killing.

Scott Frank, who directed this film, only took on this role once before in his rich cinematic career, directing a solid thriller The Lookout. However, his experience in creating screenplays obviously helped him a lot for this project, because he managed to create a strongly uncensored but impacting work.

With the help of Liam Neeson in the main role, who continues to shine in this setting, although he created several similar characters in the recent years (Taken, Non-Stop) Frank made a very atmospheric film about unseen danger and predators, where most characters are guilty of something. He didn’t opt for a flashy cinematography, but chose to show bloodshot eyes and lonely figures standing still after killing several men on the streets of New York.

All the while, the darkness presented by the antagonists, who are for the better part of the film known only by a single voice over a payphone line, continues to grow as a menace that represents pure psychopathic evil, bent of sheer sadistic violence. The moment their violence meets another one; one represented by Neeson, who also presents the same phenomenon, but one that is carried without malice or a hidden agenda, something very satisfying happens to the viewer.

It’s not justice, and it’s not revenge, but something more primal, like a tidal wave crushing the flow of lava from a newly formed volcano. One negates the other, and there is no deeper meaning to it. A Walk among the Tombstones presents this moment, and nothing more.