A Walk Among The Tombstones

Movie:  A Walk Among The Tombstones

Rating:  4 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:  Matthew Scudder (Liam Neeson) is an alcoholic.  He used to be a pretty good NYC police detective, until three guys burst into a bar where Scudder was relaxing and killed the bartender.  The detective chased the hooligans into the street, and in a running gun battle killed two of them and wounded the third.  Tragically, a stray bullet from his gun also killed a young girl, and that precipitated the end of Scudder’s police career in 1991.

Now it is 1999, and Matt Scudder gets by as a de facto private detective.  He has no badge and no license, but he gets clients through word of mouth and does jobs for “gifts”.  One night Matt’s dinner is interrupted, and he hears a sad tale from a drug dealer named Kenny Cristo (Dan Stevens).  Cristo’s wife was kidnapped, and even though he came through with a $400,000 ransom, she was still brutally murdered.  The sick animals even sent back a cassette tape of her last moments.  Matt takes the case. Real detective work is not glamorous, it’s not easy, and it is almost never quick.  Matthew Scudder is used to plodding along talking to anyone in the neighborhood who might have seen or heard anything, he frequents the library to read newspaper articles on microfiche, and basically pounds the pavement hoping to find enough pieces of the puzzle to find that one clue that might lead to answers.  Along the way Scudder befriends a smart street kid named TJ (Brian “Astro” Bradley), who becomes a valuable side kick in the investigation.

As crime story films go, this is as good as they get.  Matthew Scudder is a recurring character in a number of Lawrence Block novels, and Block is probably the best at writing these hard bitten crime stories since Raymond Chandler and Sam Spade, P.I.  Liam Neeson is perfect as the world weary knight errant of the mean streets of New York City, doing battle on behalf of those who can’t catch a break from the legal system while fighting his own internal demons.  This story is very dark and not for the squeamish, but one of the very best films of 2014.

Actor To Watch:  Liam Neeson is a marvel to watch.  At 62 he just keeps rolling along, the best tough guy in movies who can really act as well.

Dialogue Nuggets:  “Whoever did this to your wife didn’t pick your name out of a hat.”

Kidnapper:  “How much does she weigh?  You’d pay a million for her if she were product.  Is she worth as much to you?”

TJ:  “What does it take to be a good detective?”  Matt:  “A strong bladder.”

“It’s the other two you have to worry about.  They’re not human.”

“I quit drinking that day.  It just…wasn’t so much fun anymore….”

“I just wanted to (BANG)….”

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