Saturday, 20 September 2014

REVIEW - A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES (SCOTT FRANK)


Lest he run the risk of producers typecasting him, Liam Neeson typecast himself in A Walk Among the Tombstones, a film which he personally helped bring into existence. It's an alternately admirable and reprehensible thriller, whose ambitions are as modest as they are dignified. That modesty is pervasive through Scott Frank's treatment of the novel, adhering to its conventions rather than risk rocking the boat. A shame that he wasn't more adventurous - the film is staid and predictable as a result. But there are understated moments of satisfaction to be found, in Frank's decision to reference slow-burning crime thrillers of the 1970s. Mihai Malaimare Jr.'s compositions have a beautifully tangible grit to them, and some exhibit a blissful visual poetry that contrasts very nicely with the film's grim themes. The '70s inspiration proves to be one of A Walk's most rewarding attributes, though it also betrays its principle problem: that off-hand quality to the dialogue, rooted not only in 2014 but in the film's setting of the late '90s, doesn't ever gel with the grander, almost mythical feel that Frank is trying to recreate. He's trying to hearken back whilst maintaining a contemporary credibility that'll prevent A Walk from slipping into genre parody - a respectable approach, but one that hampers the film. Its atmospheric qualities, however, aided greatly by some quietly memorable imagery, are often sustenance enough to hold one's attention. The solemn savagery of Frank's vision is imbued with a caustic beauty, though it perhaps does slide too far down the bad taste scale - it's at once gleefully perverse and also morally corrupt. Once more, Frank adheres to the conventions of the novel, and of the films he's drawn inspiration from - acceptable in the 1970s perhaps, but regressive in 2014.