It needs to be fully understood that Scott Frank‘s A Walk Among The Tombstones (Universal, 9.19) is at least two or three cuts above your typical Liam Neeson whoop-ass actioner, and that it deals restrained cards all the way through with intelligent dialogue, logical plot progressions and action scenes that are rugged and jarring without being stupidly overwrought. It’s a smart-guy detective film in the vein of Chris McQuarrie‘s Jack Reacher — sensible, pruned down, less is more. Most of it is dialogue- and character-driven, and it all gradually makes sense. The mostly off-screen violence is horribly brutal (the bad guys are like ISIL without Allah) but it doesn’t feature a single under-25 woman using vocal fry patois or uptalk or the sexy baby vocal virus…thank God!
The only passage that doesn’t work happens at the very end — a violent climax that uses occasional freeze-frames as we listen to somebody recite the twelve steps from Alcoholic Anonymous. An industry journalist noted the same thing when I saw him in the parking lot. But when I said, “Okay, I felt that way also but c’mon, that’s not worth getting hung up on…this is a tough, disciplined smart-guy detective thriller,” he frowned and shook his head. My blood ran cold. “You…wait, you’re telling me you prefer the same old Taken-style Neeson whoop-ass shit to this?”,” I asked. “Yeah,” he said. “Oh, my fucking God,” I said.
This is what’s wrong with too many people in the under-45 viewing audience. No offense to above-referenced industry journo but when it comes to action films their taste buds are decidedly primitive. They’re peons. They don’t even know select marbled steak when it’s sitting on their plate. They look at it and go, “Where’s my cheeseburger with ketchup and pickles?” I’m presuming that guys like the one I spoke to in the parking lot are the reason why Universal decided to suppress online discussions and reviews of A Walk Among The Tombstones by not screening it until last night, or four days before it opens. He and his crowd are primarily responsible for the proliferation of stupid whoop-ass flicks…really, they’re the bad guys. Because when something like Tombstones comes along they make faces and go “naaaah.” I nod appreciatively. I know a top-quality piece of merchandise when I see it. I know what I’m talking about so beware of the naysayers…please.
But cheers to the people who got A Walk Among The Tombstones made — director-writer Frank, Neeson, original author Lawrence Block, the now-dissolved Jersey Films (Michael Shamberg, Stacy Sher, Danny DeVito), producers Tobin Armbrust and Brian Oliver.