Liam Neeson Shoots More People: The Movie

Funny how different 1999 looks on camera in 2015. Payphones, Y2K, microfiche; it’s otherworldly, almost uncomfortably different. In this setting is placed a moody detective thriller – equally old fashioned – with Liam Neeson stalking two unfathomably cruel killers in New York’s seedier side.

The film is pessimistic and cold. Children are abandoned, drug swindlers are considered high class, and their junkies are necessary pieces to the economy. Neeson himself is a former alcoholic, Matt Scudder, now addicted to the personal allure of AA meetings. Scudder is monotone, a cliché even. However he is also Liam Neeson.

Neeson is expressively dry (if such a thing is possible) and richly textured – retired NYPD detective now a freelance PI. Such a character is compelling, more so with the surrounding narrative as support.

Scudder has been around. Jeff Bridges once took ownership of the character in the eighties with 8 Million Ways to Die, also following the pattern of Lawrence Block’s long running novel series. Neeson though is a different breed. As the actor has risen through action cinema’s rankings, Neeson has landed here with force, to a point where his personality is notably embedded into each role. That style is profitable.

Adaptation to the screen is intelligent. Scudder is a ground-up character. He’s ready for sequels now. Paired with an anxious street kid TJ (rapper Astro), this detective shows a softer side to his broken and tortured mind. Unlike many, Scudder is reasonable and well considered. His actions are astute.

Yes, Liam Neeson will kill people. That has become a genre unto itself

A Walk Among the Tombstones is a movie of talents. As much as it is a mystery thriller, it also drifts into revenge cinema and sickening, sexually-based murders which are wholly unnerving. Most of the kills by a devastatingly effective David Harbour are off screen, still too close for the grisly content.

Yes, Liam Neeson will kill people. That has become a genre unto itself although Tombstones is richer and less imprudent than its casting suggests. Development is plodding and slow, scattered even, but eventually tightening to best wrangle a wide net of major players into the final frames.

Dark and pale as it is, Tombstones is beautiful with a perceptive style that exaggerates rain, weighs shadows, or blitzes exterior light to accentuate story needs. There is a slew of talent here, headed by director Scott Frank who has led only a few features, but notably 2007’s memorable The Lookout. Not much has changed since his last crime feature. Tombstones is equally successful. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Movie]

Neeson detailed @ 48:18

“Could have fooled me” was an immediate thought upon viewing Tombstones’ digital cinematography. It’s as film-like as any. There is zero indication this is digital. A layered faux grain completes the illusion without any compression problems.

All of the elements are there, from the brilliant black levels, exquisite fidelity, and all together vintage look. While color grading is of course modern, the source is stunningly rendered with vivid resolution. Forget any encoding issues from Universal too. The disc’s transfer is perfect.

Any bothers come from the color – maybe a touch from the stylish focal tricks too. Tombstones is given a mild palette of yellows, browns, and various light blues. Each shade is minimal. Scenes only pop when afforded with black levels which can help image density. Note the post production color tweaking is a fantastic mood setter.

In an overall view, the movie is consistent in appearance. It never slips away or deviates in heavy detail. Close-ups are pristine. Shots of the city (with some distance) are flawless, capturing some superlative graffiti to best set the intended location visually and silently. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]

A savory exaggeration of gunfire highlights the disc on book-ends. Any round fired passes the low-end with force, aggressively and loud. LFE is packed tight and pure. The finale uses a major shoot-out outdoors which adds space, including sharp ambiance with each shot.

In fact, ambiance is a hallmark of this DTS-HD track. Rain is a spectacle. Tombstones’ spread across each available channel is wide, calling for a 7.1 track which never comes. Still, it’s hefty. Inside of a van, the rough road can heard bouncing along the underside hitting stereos and rears. Those touches bring life to a mostly dialog-heavy piece. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]

A Look Behind the Tombstone is typical material, pulling together Neeson, producers, writers, and director Scott Frank for interviews. It runs for 12 minutes. Matt Scudder: Private Eye, despite being half the length, has a bit more meat to it as it explores the lineage of the character from the book to the screen. Those two featurettes are the only bonuses. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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