Will It Make A Good Film?: A Walk Among The Tombstones

Tombstones

Release Date: September 19, 2014

Director: Scott Frank

Based On: A Walk Among The Tombstones, by Lawrence Block, published 1992

Overview:  Private Investigator Matt Scudder, a recovering alcoholic who now toes the line of the law he once upheld, is hired to investigate the brutal murder of the wife of a known drug dealer.  This book is the tenth in a series featuring Scudder as the central character that function as modern hardboiled detective novels.

Working In Its Favor:  When I first saw the preview for this film, I thought great, just what we need, another Liam Neeson movie about a retired badass who just can’t let go of the life for good.  The first trailer released for A Walk Among the Tombstones made the mistake of spinning this story to make it seem like just another one of those old guy who can’t quit flicks, but when I read the book I realized this is not Taken, or Three Days To Kill, or November Man.  This is a gritty, suspenseful detective story, and there’s potential here for a thrilling and compelling movie going experience, particularly for mystery fans.  Matt Scudder is a slightly tortured, morally ambiguous alcoholic who gets his hands dirty and is sometimes a little afraid of the fact that he enjoys it.

This book also has some pretty graphic and grisly moments, which could create major impact and shock value if they’re done right on screen.  The latest trailer for the film implies some suspense elements, and with the R rating, I’m hopeful that they don’t shy away from the nature of the murders.  Block’s novel also has a slow burn quality to it, taking its time to build on the suspense as builds toward its climax.  It has its quiet moments that focus on characterization and dialogue, and if the perfect balance between action and set up is struck and Neeson along with the supporting cast have the chemistry, this could be the best detective movie in years.

Potential Issues:  Practically every item listed above that could make this movie fantastic could also be its downfall.  If Scudder’s character is stripped down to an angry, gun toting killing machine with no character depth, this movie will totally miss the mark.  It’s been to be a combination between the old school and the new, like Philip Marlowe meets Harry Bosch.  The book also takes place in 1992, so if they choose to make the film present day, many elements will have to be aged appropriately, which could detract from the tone of the story.

Wild Card:  The wild card here is Scott Frank, who both wrote the screenplay and directed the movie.  Some of the notches in Frank’s belt include Minority Report, Out of Sight, and Get Shorty, which prove he’s no stranger to mystery, crime, and suspense.  But that’s his writing resume.  Frank has limited experience in the Director’s chair, so the likelihood of his success there is a toss up.

Verdict: Will It Make A Good Film? – This one could go either way.  I’m so desperate for the revival of the great detective movie that I’m going to cross my fingers and give it a yes.