Contributor; Toronto, Canada (@filmfest_ca)

You know that film starring Liam Neeson where there's a kidnapping, and a series of phone calls and negotiations take place, and there are gun fights and stuff?

While this broad description easily describes a slew of his films from the last couple of decades (as a friend described it, Neeson is the Irish Denzel Washington), what's kind of remarkable is that in each of these films, Neeson is usually the best part. You can see why he's offered these roles; he gives the right amount of gravitas to the roles, a believability in a kind of action hero that's quite rare these days.

A Walk Among the Tombstones is probably more frustrating than most of these projects because it actually has the trappings of being excellent. A cool, Bond-like title sequence speaks to a real darkness in the story, a complicated one involving the DEA, drug traffickers, black mail, and a recovering alcoholic cop, all working under the millennial ennui of Y2K.

I admit that period films set way back in 1999 make me feel particularly old, but there's a grittiness to both the style and tech that's well in keeping with the narrative, a grittier New York that hadn't quite been cleaned up, and still was living with those two tall towers at the south end of Manhattan.

For huge chunks of the film, the noir elements coalesce well, the overt references to Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe speaking of the tone that much of the narrative relies upon. Some of the shocking moments are played well, if telegraphed quite a bit, and the audience I saw it with seemed genuinely surprised when one or two jump scares occurred.

The film kind of takes a dump in the bed when it introduces a precocious street urchin into the mix, letting Neeson go all Qui-Gon on his new assistant who's able to traverse the magic lands of Yahoo to dig up some detective stuff. While we do learn something cool about Sickle cell anemia (although it seems that research was published in 2011), and there are a couple of moments of good repartee, it all does seem a bit superfluous.

That all can be forgiven until we hit the ending, one that borrows more from shitty horror films than noir epics, where even a guy slipping down a flight of stairs seems more laughable than suspenseful. It's as if all that came before gets flushed down, all mood that was set is exchanged for a cruddy little confrontation that's frankly just silly.

For part of the promenade, A Walk Among the Tombstones is an enjoyable one, but once we get to the series of finales it's clear that in the end it's probably not a schlepp worth taking.

A Walk Among the Tombstones

  • Scott Frank
  • Lawrence Block (based on the novel by)
  • Scott Frank (written for the screen by)
  • Liam Neeson
  • Maurice Compte
  • Patrick McDade
  • Luciano Acuna Jr.
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Liam NeesonScott FrankLawrence BlockMaurice ComptePatrick McDadeLuciano Acuna Jr.CrimeDramaMystery

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