Ah, Octoberween has begun, the most fantastic time of year when life becomes pumpkin-spiced and things get a little… spookier. This week, I went to go see the newest installment in the Taken franchise, Taken A Walk Among the Tombstones.
Liam Neeson plays Matt Scudder, an alcoholic and retired cop who now does unlicensed private detective work. One of his Alcoholics Anonymous buddies introduces him to his brother, Kenny Kristo, who has a job offer for him: Kenny’s wife was kidnapped by unknown people- and even when Kenny payed the ransom, they killed her anyway. Kenny hires Matt to investigate who killed his wife and bring them to him. Now, Matt is embroiled in a deadly and intricate kidnapping/murder spree.
Yeah, so it is one of the darkest films I have recently seen.
Initial thoughts: I was very concerned about this movie when I first saw the trailers, and I walked into the theater fully expecting a generic Taken clone (such as Nonstop). Thankfully, I was honestly and delightfully surprised by the movie.
First off, A Walk Among the Tombstones is set in 1999. This confused the absolute hell out of me. It’s not really a fault in the movie, it seems unnecessary- but not bad. It has a few remarks about the Y2K scare and the then-recent explosion of technology- Matt is unable to use computers and cell-phones. But all in all, the temporal setting is unrelated to the action (with the possible exception that the mystery would’ve been solved a hell of a lot quicker with modern police technology).
The period piece (it feels weird saying that about the 90’s…) actually works okay because the film has a lot of neo-noir flavor to it. There’s even a conversation between Scudder and his wannabe private eye semi-sidekick TJ (interestingly, the only person of color in the movie- and homeless to boot) concerning noir detectives. The action is intense and the cinematography full of beautiful throw-backs to classic noir films.
I am also fully in support of Liam Neeson’s facial hair.
I found it interesting that the mystery is not about “whodunnit.” You see almost everything the killers do. You see their faces almost from their first appearance. It’s not about who, but more about why, and possibly to whom. Liam Neeson definitely holds the film together, he’s a broken and lost man who manages to find a little bit of redemption and meaning throughout the course of the movie. He’s a recovering alcoholic who retired from police work when he got into a drunken shootout with criminals and accidentally killed a little girl. His performance is powerful- and surprisingly subtle.
Unfortunately, the movie sometimes strays into cliche (albeit noir cliches). There are also some moments where you can see the Taken stereotype coming through and sloppily break the slow-building thriller. In addition, there’s a few things that are seemingly inconsequential and unnecessary, such as TJ’s struggle with sickle-cell anemia. None of them are really done poorly- just not necessarily needed to be done in the first place.
Final Thoughts? The movie is better than most people billed it for. Now, I wouldn’t exactly say that it’s a phenomenal film. It’ll probably still be forgotten, and that’s unfortunate. If you get the chance to catch it at some point, I’d honestly recommend it.
Join me next week, when I’ll be watching Brad Pitt reprise his role as Aldo Raine alongside Stanley Yelnats in FURY.
In the meantime, be sure to check out my other column Trope-ic Thunder, where I discuss science tropes in the media.
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