Saturday, 18 October 2014

A Walk Among The Tombstones (2014) - Movie Review

Twice in a row I find myself talking about actors whom have become known for playing the same role over and over. And to make matters worse, the actor in question played pretty much the exact same character earlier this year. Liam Neeson, despite what my mother and I’m sure countless others would like to argue, is not a bad actor. He is just good at playing to type and prefers to stick to said type. He is best in movies like the Taken series (The fact that that movie became a series is testament enough to how good he is at playing that type), Batman Begins and of course Non-Stop from earlier this year: The soft-spoken but hardened ‘specialist’ who will beat you and everyone who’s ever looked at you senseless if you cross him. Here, he is once again doing his thing in the new thriller ‘A Walk Among The Tombstones’.

The plot: A private investigator is hired by a drug dealer to find the men whom kidnapped, and murdered, his wife. At the risk of cutting my own review short, this is not as good as Non-Stop, and bear in mind that I wasn’t all that hot on Non-Stop when it first came out. I have admittedly warmed up to it a bit more since seeing it, but it still isn’t all that high up there. Now, having watched this, I like it even more in retrospect. Not to say that this film is all-out bad, far from it; it’s just that Non-Stop did better at almost everything that this film attempts.

First off, let’s start with the shared genre of the two: Thriller. How is it at delivering thrills and suspense? Honestly, not that good. The best moments come near the start and near the end of the film. The scene near the start involves the drug dealer finding his wife’s body in several bags that look like drug packages. It’s chilling, to say the least. The scene near the end is when Liam does his ‘threatening the villain over the phone’ shtick, which he does exceptionally well. Save for those two outliers, the tension stays pretty baseline for the most part. The villains here are… really bland. They both feel like failed clones of Francis Dolarhyde, but without anything that made that villain fascinating and worthy of study. By film’s end, we know extremely little about these two and while this can work in giving some air of mystery to the villains and showing them as just insane psychopaths with little motive has worked for some horror/thrillers in the past, the way they are portrayed feels like we were supposed to care in some fashion about them. Except… we don’t. Or, at the very least, I didn’t.

A perfect example of this is near the end when *SPOILERS* one of them kills the other. Rather than this coming off as a twist in the story, it felt more like “Oh. Okay. That was a thing that just happened.” Aside from that, the other characters are okay, even with TJ, the street-wise acquaintance of the main hero played by Astro, whom some of you may remember from this 'wonderful' song (Semi-pop stars in supporting roles, yet another bit of Deja vu from my last review). TJ is a bit stereotypical, but not to the point where I felt like I was watching Bamboozled again.

The writing is mostly good, with most of the good dialogue given to Neeson as one would expect. One of the stand-out scenes is when he is showing TJ how to load and shoot a gun, which he ends by telling him to just shoot himself in the head and save the thugs on the street the trouble; if he carries that gun around, it’s going to happen eventually. There is also a little motif about Y2K (the film is set in 1999 and it makes no attempt to hide it) and how there are more dangerous things out there to be afraid of, a statement made out loud by one of the villains no less, that showed a certain depth that this movie needed to stay afloat. Thankfully, there are no mentions of Y2K orphans to make this all stupid.

One scene that didn’t work as well was the big gunfight in the cemetery, which was intercut with excerpts from the Twelve Steps of AA. These excerpts make little to no sense in context to the scene, save for one moment involving the drug dealer and his and Neeson’s mutual friend, and only serve to detach the viewer from the action. The plot, as far as these kinds of thrillers are concerned, is pretty paint-by-numbers: No unexpected twists, no unique moments, no points of extreme tension. Just Neeson running around trying to find the killers, which he inevitably does.

All in all, this is pretty average. Well directed with Neeson doing well as the lead, but still average. If you didn’t completely get your Liam Neeson fix with Non-Stop… well, I’d just suggest renting Non-Stop and watching that again, because I guarantee you that you will get more out of it, even if you have seen it already. However, if you are a die-hard fan and must see every movie that he’s in, it’d be best to wait until this is out as a rental.

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