"A Walk Among The Tombstones" is far from perfect. As Vulture's Kyle Buchanan noted on Twitter, the film is severely lacking in female characters who aren't brutalized, and its villains are problematic at best. (A dissenting take on the film's depiction of women was provided by New York Times critic Manohla Dargis.) Yet to move beyond the film's sexual politics is to find a hard-boiled detective thriller that would have found a comfortable home had it come out in either 1947 or 1997. In 2014, it's Liam Neeson in the lead role of Matt Scudder, a recovering alcoholic and private detective who helps a bunch of drug dealers get revenge on a pair of sadistic murderers. Scott Frank's new film is based on the popular book series by Lawrence Block, and if this is the start of a franchise, we'll take it. After all, how many "Taken" movies can they really expect us to sit through? Ahead, the four best parts of "A Walk Among the Tombstones."
There's A Mystery, Sort Of
"A Walk Among The Tombstones" isn't necessarily a whodunit -- there is no twist or overarching conspiracy -- but its mystery allows for Neeson's Scudder to problem solve on numerous occasions. That's a good thing: Neeson is a transfixing actor when he's just ... thinking. If anything, "A Walk Among the Tombstones" is a pleasant reminder that the 62-year-old doesn't need to kill Eurotrash bad guys to be an effective performer.
It Takes Place In 1999
The throwback vibe of "A Walk Among the Tombstones" extends to its time period as well. A majority of the film takes place in 1999, and Y2K anxiety is referenced throughout. There's a reason for that: "Now, Y2K seems quaint. We sort of lost our innocence in 2001. We were afraid of our computers crashing and getting stuck in an elevator. Now, that’s nothing," Frank told ScreenCrush in a recent interview. By setting the film in a Sept. 10 world, Frank is allowed to make some commentary on fear and evil. It almost works, but maybe not as well as it did in "Munich," which provided similar hindsight analysis on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and even shares a comparable final beat with "A Walk Among the Tombstones." But that shouldn't worry Frank too much: Not everyone can be Steven Spielberg.
Dan Stevens' Facial Hair
In his opening scene, pictured left, Dan Stevens doesn't really have any discernible facial hair. In all subsequent scenes, embodied by the right photo, the former "Downton Abbey" star has an evil mustache-soulpatch combination that can grow in an instant. It's magical.
There's A Giant "Goodfellas" Reference
In reality, no one should ever use Donovan's "Atlantis" in a movie anymore; Martin Scorsese basically owns that song after the Billy Batts sequence in "Goodfellas." But Frank apparently wants modern audiences to consider the 1968 track anew by featuring it during a particularly creepy portion of "A Walk Among the Tombstones." Give him credit for being so brazen in that choice, even if it only made us think of an infinitely better film for two minutes.