Granger on Movies: 'A Walk Among the Tombstones'
Mystery novelist Lawrence Block's world-weary detective Matthew Scudder comes to the silver screen, capably embodied by Liam Neeson ("Taken," "Unknown," "Non-Stop") in an obvious attempt to start a new film franchise.
The prologue, set in 1991, establishes Scudder as a former New York City cop, a recovering alcoholic who gave up booze after a shoot-out went tragically awry. By 1999, Scudder has become an unlicensed investigator, noting: "I do favors for people -- in return, they give me gifts."
Recruited by Peter Kristo (Boyd Holbrook), a recovering junkie, Scudder reluctantly takes a case involving Peter's drug-dealing brother Kenny (Dan Stevens), whose wife was kidnapped and killed, despite his having paid a $400,000 ransom. After another female victim is discovered, dismembered in Brooklyn's historic Greenwood Cemetery, and the daughter of a Russian drug dealer (Sebastian Roche) is taken hostage, the trail leads to a pair of sadistic serial killers (David Harbour, Adam David Thompson) who purposely target someone related to a criminal so the police won't be summoned. After questioning the graveyard's creepy grounds keeper (Olafur Darri Olafsson), Scudder pursues the culprits with the help of a young apprentice, TJ (Brian "Astro" Bradley), a homeless black teenager who wants to be private eye.
Adapted and directed by Scott Frank ("Get Shorty," "Out of Sight," "The Lookout"), this grimly intense thriller alternates between long, talky interludes during which little happens and sequences of such explicit, horrific violence that they border on gruesome pornography. Adding insult to injury, during the final credits, there's a notice from the Humane Society of the United States that no animals were harmed in any of the scenes.
Not surprisingly, Liam Neeson captures technophobic Scudder's moody melancholy, but this marks a complete career departure for Dan Stevens, best known as the late Matthew Crowley on TV's "Downton Abbey."
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "A Walk Among the Tombstones" is a fierce, ferocious 5, filled with offensive scenes depicting graphic torture and grisly mutilation of women.