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A Walk Among the Tombstones

Have a good look at the over-sized posters at the bus stops around the place … they are so indicative of the dark and disturbed tone of this movie. There is Liam in his overcoat, unsmiling with a gun in one hand and a bag of ransom money in the other. He looks his best in this type of tough guy cop role ….after the dreadful ‘Taken 2’ and ‘Non-stop’( which were definitely not his best work) he redeems himself with this movie. It’s a New York crime drama with some ‘Psycho’ influences – maybe even a bit of  ‘Silence of the Lambs’. The first scene is set in 1991 where cop Matt Scudder witnesses a murder while having a quiet drink in a diner. Of course he chases and shoots the bad guys and we see some of the incident which impacts his life dramatically. After this he quits the police force and becomes a private investigator.

The movie then shifts to 1999, which offers a setting where tough guy Matt can’t have a cell phone so pay phones feature prominently in the movie.  (Matt Scudder is the main protagonist in 17 crime novels by Laurence Block; worth a read, I think.)  Have you noticed that it’s only in American movies that pay phones ring when you walk past?  Matt is approached by the Kristo brothers, Peter an artist with a drug habit and Kenny who is a drug dealer. Kenny’s wife, Carrie, was kidnapped and despite him paying the ransom and running around New York in the rain going from ringing pay phone to ringing pay phone, Carrie is not returned as promised by the kidnappers. Matt takes the job to find Carrie’s killers and also realises that other women in the area have been murdered by the kidnappers. Downton Abbey fans take note – Kenny is actually dear Matthew, Mary’s husband killed off so tragically so he could go and make movies in America. When a 14 year old girl is taken by the kidnappers, Matt steps in to negotiate the ransom and get her back safely to her father.

This movie is dark, gritty and disturbing. It’s always raining, and every scene is framed with a touch of menace in the air. Each male character has his inner demons and secrets  – some let them loose in the most awful acts, others manage to control theirs, while some write novels and keep pigeons. Apart from the victims, female characters are limited to the waitress in the diner and the librarian at the library,. Disturbingly, the victims are depicted in the back of a plumber’s van where they are forced to make terrible choices about their own torture. This gives a very misogynistic tone to the movie as there are some deeply distressing scenes involving violence towards women.

The two kidnappers are reincarnations of Norman Bates who patrol the surburban streets of New York in a white van with ’Eastside Plumbers’ on the side, looking for women on their own who would be easy targets. They are the kind of guys who quickly garrotte someone in the basement, then calmly go upstairs for a bowl of cereal because they are hungry. They live in an ordinary house in a quiet surburban street but the kitchen sink is full of  blood-stained cleavers and hacksaws. It is a good movie; yes it’s rather awful in places but good nevertheless. If you can stomach a bit of torture in the rain, go and see it.

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