A Walk Among the Tombstones

Short Review:

A classic detective story set way back in in the good old days of 1999. Liam Neeson is always good as a bad ass, but refreshing as a detective/bad ass.


Long Review:

Before I get into the movie, let me say that seeing a movie at a small,  2nd run theater is more than than I remember. The downtown theater in Eau Claire is a throwback to the good old days when we only had one movie at one theater playing at a time. Well, I think they have two screens, but still. The decor is very 1970s or even earlier and they even still have the window to the outside facing the sidewalk. They don’t use it, but hey, its there. And for only $4 a ticket, hey, can’t beat that price. Gonna have to see more movies here. If you’re in Eau Claire and haven’t seen a movie here yet, you gotta check it out. If you have a 2nd run theater near you, go there and support it. There, that’s my spiel.


I looked up very little about A Walk Among the Tombstones before seeing it. I did the same thing with the recent Dracula Untold and was very disappointed, but with A Walk Among the Tombstones, I was pleasantly surprised. Given the movies Liam Neeson has made recently, I assumed it would simply be more of him kicking butt like in Taken, Taken 2, or A-Team. But this was not the case. He was definitely no push over, but most of the screen time in this film was Matt, Neeson’s character, attempting to solve a murder as a former police office, unlicensed private detective.


There were a lot of things that this movie had that I liked, but even more that it didn’t have, that I liked. I’ll explain.


A lot of the detective work in the movie was Matt simply asking witnesses and talking to people, asking them questions, getting a feel for the details they remembered and noticing the differences between them. I also really liked his side kick who happened to be a smart homeless African American kid who wanted to be a detective. Loved their relationship and how it grew throughout the movie.


I may even have stronger feelings about the things this detective movie did not include that I appreciated. This is very much a film noir movie, dark and brooding, hard almost emotionless strong protagonist detective trying to solve a crime. However, Matt, Neeson’s character, had not love interest in the entire movie and made no mention of one whatsoever. Further more, there was no “femme fatale” or overly sexualized woman who usually temps the main character but turns out to be an antagonist or even the main bad guy.


It was just refreshing to see our main character, the detective, not be worried about his single status and simply focusing on the case. However, one minor complaint that could be made is that because there is no femme fatale or love interest, there is also no strong female character in this movie at all. The only women in the movie are the victims. Apparently women in detective movies are one only three things: love interests, femme fatales, or victims. They can’t just be good at helping solve crimes, apparently.  But this is a critique on the movie industry as a whole, and not necessarily just pointed at this film.


Another thing that A Walk Among the Tombstones did not have that I appreciated was the old and tired private detective versus police detective conflict. In fact, there was no police in the entire film, which is perhaps unrealistic, but it made sense given the plot.


I also appreciated the fact that although the plot centered around brutal murders, they don’t focus on the brutality of the violence for too long. This, I would argue, is a respect to the viewer’s intelligence. That we are smart enough to understand that yes, violence does exist, and yes, there are people that are horrible and do terrible things, but we don’t need to be SHOWN this in a movie about it. We just need a director to tastefully imply the violence to give us reason enough  for us to want our hero to catch the bad guys, or kill them.


I liked one more thing that this movie did not have, but that includes a slight spoiler, which I won’t put here. [way at the bottom]


If you like Liam Neeson, a good detective story, and decent storytelling, go see this movie. If you missed it in theaters, I recommend a rental at some point.



[Spoilers beyond this point]


There are two other things that this movie neglected to include in the plot which I appreciated.


One is the cliche, seemingly obligatory extreme twist in detective movies. Like, if the plot is about a doctor who’s killing people by surgically removing their left pinky...turns out the main character has a pink! OMG!  Or, is the movie about being crazy in an insane asylum, holy crap, the main character is crazy!  [Scorsese, ahem]. Or, is the movie about dead people, OMG, the main character is a dead people! You get the idea. After a while, after enough twists...you begin to see the pattern. The biggest twist is for the main character to BE that thing that you would never think him or her to be. I like the fact that A Walk Among the Tombstones doesn’t try to delve into that dumb trap and just plays it straight with a decent detective story about getting the bad guys.


One more thing I liked was that we didn’t get an explanation of why the bad guys were the way they were.  So many of our villains, especially in the comic book genre of films, but in other movies and tv series as well, we see the authors of these stories to try to come up with an origin story for the villain. His mom hurt him so he’s bad. His neighbors killed his dog, so hey killed theirs. His older brother ate his cotton candy last week, so now he kills people while wearing a suit made out of cotton candy (I think I just wrote a slasher film accidentally). You get it.


A Walk Among the Tombstones doesn’t care about the origin of the villains. In fact, the biggest explanation we ever get is “Because they’re insane.”  And later, when one of them is about to try to say something and starts with the words “I was just trying to....” He’s cut off suddenly...I won’t spoil that for you.


Is it somewhat interesting to try to understand why bad people do bad things? Sure, from a sociological perspective, it’s important what cultural mechanism or biological cause, or combination there of that might make serial killers or murderers because if we understand this, then perhaps we can prevent it, or at least hopefully reduce the amount of people, mostly men, that become that.  However, in a movie, though this can be brought up and discussed....I don’t really care what caused an individual to do certain things. I just want the good guy to get the bad guy and make him stop doing bad things.


Am I simple for saying this? Sure, but I don’t think I’m wrong.


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