Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Walk Among the Tombstones [2014]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (L)  ChiTrib/Variety (2 Stars) (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (2 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McAleer) review
ChicagoTribune/Variety (A. Barker) review (G. Kenny) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

The first thing to say about about the hard-boiled, crime drama (set pre-9/11 and "just at the end of the pre-internet age") A Walk Among the Tombstones [2014] (directed and screenplay by Scott Frank, based on the novel by Lawrence Block [IMDb]) is that it's not for the squeamish. This is a definitely appropriately (hard)-R-rated (for violence / gore) Charles Bronson [IMDb] / "Death Wish"-like story involving a alcohol recovering former NYPD detective turned "unlicensed Private Eye" named Matt Scutter [IMDb] (played in excellent, thoughtful, ever calibrated fashion by this generation's "later-in-life tough guy" Liam Neeson) brought reluctantly into a case involving a couple (in more ways than one?) of psychopathic serial killers (played by David Harbour and Adam David Thompson) who prey on the significant women (wives, girlfriends, daughters) of drug dealers, extorting said drug dealers for their money and then sadistically killing, chopping-up and subsequently even "neatly packaging" the chopped-up parts said kidnapped wives, girlfriends and daughters of said drug dealers ANYWAY for the drug dealers to recover.  Yes, folks, this is a brutal story.

The brutality of the story is such that several times during the film, I honestly thought of getting-up and leaving. I've done so -- simply got-up and left -- in cases of various films in the past like famously Killer Joe [2012] and Sinister [2012] and I had thought of doing so while viewing others, including Compliance [2012]. as well.  Why I decided to stay through to the end of this film (and Compliance) while I did not do so in the cases of the other two would be because I saw _significantly more_ going-on in this movie (and Compliance) than just the brutal violence / sexual humiliation, while I honestly did not see much more than that going-on in either the other two films.

So what then would make this film more worthy of watching than, say Killer Joe [2012]

Well, first, to some extent the film-maker(s) here were "lucky."  The current film was released in the same month as we, the public, have been forced to deal-with / absorb the video-taping / posting-on-YouTube of three ACTUAL beheadings of innocent hostages by the Syria/Iraq based terrorist group I.S.I.S.  As such, as "over the top" as the brutality of the current film may initially seem, thanks to the (claiming to be "Islamic" group) I.S.I.S., a case could honestly be made here that the current film's brutality "is merely an expression / reflection of the brutality of our times."  Should one necessarily accept that argument?  I'm not saying that, but AGAIN THANKS TO THE THREE VIDEO-TAPED (and PROUDLY posted) BEHEADINGS OF _INNOCENTS_ by the "claiming to be Islamic" group I.S.I.S., the film-makers here have an argument to make ...

Then faced with this shocking-to-the-core crime -- even as it is committed "against the loved ones of drug-dealers (criminals) -- the Alcoholics Anonymous attending former NYPD detective turned "unlicensed Private Eye" Matt Scutter, who FASCINATINGLY is portrayed as taking A.A.'s 12-steps AS SERIOUSLY TO HEART AS SINCERE / BELIEVING CATHOLICS/CHRISTIANS AND JEWS HAVE TAKEN THE TEN COMMANDMENTS in generations past, IS SHOWN SINCERELY REFLECTING THROUGHOUT THE FILM as to HOW TO RESPOND APPROPRIATELY TO THE CRIMES/ EVIL THAT HE HAS BEEN CONFRONTED WITH.

As such, as brutal as this film is (parents, please don't take your kids to this ...) THIS IS NOT A DUMB MOVIE.  This is a very thought-provoking story, written/expressed in the current (A.A. based) parlance / SPIRITUALITY of our times that thanks to "Islamic" groups like I.S.I.S. turns out to be even "more current" than we wish it was.

So while six weeks ago, I would have probably walked-out of this film because of its brutality, thanks to I.S.I.S. I did stay, and came away with the view that the film-maker(s) here did really have something thoughtful to say.

Now could the same message been said without the brutality?  Probably, perhaps even almost certainly, yes.  But thanks to the world's current "faith-based" ("Islamic") groups like I.S.I.S. the filmmakers here produced a film no more brutal than the reality in which we unfortunately live-in today.

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