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A Walk Among the Tombstones

A Walk Among the Tombstones
An intriguing title and Liam Neesom as the star were the original draws for 2014's A Walk Among the Tombstones, a moody and layered action thriller anchored in a surprisingly meaty story that sustains viewer interest despite a pretentious finale that goes on a little longer than necessary.

Matthew Scudder is an ex-cop turned private detective, who has been sober for eight years, who gets hired by a wealthy drug kingpin named Kenny Kristo to the find the two guys who kidnapped and murdered his wife. As Scudder reluctantly begins his investigation, the scope of the case unexpectedly widens as a connection is revealed between Kenny's case, a murder/kidnapping that occurred when Scudder was still drinking, and another kidnapping involving a business associate of Kristo's.

Director and screenwriter Scott Frank (Minority Report, Out of Sight) has taken Lawrence Block's novel and fashioned it into a multi-layered murder mystery that is told out of sequence requiring complete attention from the viewer. The story seems to spend a little too much time setting up the fact that Scudder is an alcoholic, but as the other puzzle pieces come into focus, we see why. The set-up of the story is clearly inspired by Quentin Tarantino's Oscar-winning screenplay for Pulp Fiction, which is clearly no coincidence since this film was produced by three of that film's producers, including Danny DeVito.

Frank's direction is as solid as his screenplay, featuring a lot of artsy camerawork that creates a lot of memorable cinematic pictures. There's a scene of Scudder's young associate, TJ, being beaten by some thugs that instead of closing in on the action, is shot from overhead. The tracking shot is used to maximum effect every time we see someone shadowing Scudder. Loved the way Scudder could always sense when he was being followed without looking behind him.

The film also has a nice period feel, even though the film is set in the year 1999. There are several scenes of people talking on pay phones throughout the film, something I had forgotten are a thing of the past. There is also a scene in a library where Scudder is actually observed researching the case utilizing microfiche. I hadn't seen that in so long that it took me a minute to think of the word microfiche.

Liam Neesom brings the same quiet intensity to Matthew Scudder that he did to Bryan Mills in the Taken franchise, even if Scudder is a little more old school than Mills. Solid support is provided by Dan Stevens as Kenny Kristo, Boyd Holbrook as his junkie younger brother, and David Harbour, in one of his slimiest turns as one of the kidnappers. The screenplay could have been tightened a little and the finale, which is narrated by a female voice reading the twelve steps of AA is a little pretentious, but it's a solid little action thriller.