"You want your money or you wanna be looking behind you for the rest of your worthless life?
Do this deal and I'll sit on what I know about you.
You can take your little Bert and Ernie act to the other side of the country.
There's plenty of dope dealers in LA."
Strange but true. I haven't seen any of the "Taken" movies where Liam Neeson first must rescue his daughter Kim out of the hands of Albanian kidnappers, then he and his ex-wife are kidnapped by the same Albanian gang and finally he must track down the person who murdered his ex-wife. Each film was about family related crimes. Now in "A Walk Among the Tombstones" the wife and the daughter of a drug dealer are abducted and Neeson uses the experience he gained at the New York police. It's not that I avoid detective stories routinely, although I got the feeling that the "Taken"-series was just another "detective-runs-after-offender" film. Also it's not that I don't like Neeson. He's certainly not an actor who plays memorable roles, but the fact is that he embodies roles like this in a proper manner. Just as in "Non-Stop", he takes the identity of a former alcoholic who turned his back to his career as a police officer and exchanged it for a more low-profile profession. Again, he got stuck with an immense guilt because of a blunder he made due to his alcohol problem.
That's also the introduction of "A Walk Among the Tombstones": the situation in which Matt Scudder (Liam Neeson) finds himself and making that famous mistake. The mistake itself isn't immediately revealed but will be later on in the film. Let's say it's in such a way significant, that Scudder throws his police badge in the garbage can, immediately decides to sober up and tamely attends AA meetings on a regular base. And finally he continues as a private detective without a license. One day he's being accosted by a member of the AA, asking him to help his brother (a drug dealer) in a case where the police shouldn't be involved in. Turns out his wife was kidnapped and that he already paid the asked ransom. Instead of closing his wife back in his arms, she's neatly delivered as a bunch of packets lying in the trunk of a car. A butcher would be jealous of such craftsmanship. The moment another drug dealer's daughter is kidnapped, Scudder takes the responsibility to track the sadistic and insane killers.
It's not very original but still entertaining enough. There was even a slight form of tension in this dark thriller. Unfortunately again, the character Scudder is a stereotypical person. A traumatized loner who seems to be indifferent because of his personal suffering in the past and the resulting blunder. A cynical person with a "Je mon fou" attitude. Eventually it doesn't bother him how he returns from a confrontation, although he still came to a soberly conclusion at some point: "I'm getting too old for this". His alcohol problem is a crucial element in Scudder's life, and is plainly demonstrated by interweaving flashbacks and the twelve steps of AA in it (although the time that this happened was a poor choice). The announcement of him being 8 years sober at an AA meeting, was followed by a rather cool reaction. I still think those members could muster some enthusiasm. This wasn't exactly encouraging.
The 62-year-old Neeson plays the role as the repented ex-cop, purely with one's eyes shut. The color palette used in this movie, gave it a 70s feeling and eventually made an old-fashioned police thriller out of it. And Neeson fits in this set-up perfectly as a matured detective. But the most imaginative characters were the two creepy, sadistic serial killers played by David Harbour (as Ray) and Adam David Thompson (as Albert). Indeed, they are a kind of "Bert and Ernie". Only they don't do such innocent things like cramming a banana in someone's ear. They are two insensible and self-assured characters, who won't hesitate to torture an innocent teenage girl.
"A Walk Among the Tombstones" certainly wasn't a bad film, but ultimately left me indifferent. The final denouement wasn't exactly surprising and at the end of the movie I only had a "That's it ?" feeling. It was also a bit silly to involve the street boy TJ in it. Eventually, his contribution to the entire story wasn't of great importance and probably was only used so Scudder could show his protective fatherly feelings. There was however one particular part that disappointed me the most and that's the basement of the two buddies Ray and Albert. Even the basement of my father looks more eerie than this dark cave of those two sadistic creeps. They made sure that even the most sensitive soul could watch this film. How Albert managed to free himself, was actually a mystery to me. For me this part could have been explicitly portrayed. However, the final was straightforward and cold-blooded. Sadly enough this was the only moment where I briefly raised my eyebrows. Shocker.
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