Monday, September 29, 2014

The Current Cinema 14.7

A Walk Among the Tombstones

Scott Frank’s brooding “A Walk Among the Tombstones” is a step above the other rote Liam Neeson action vehicles out there as of late. The film does set itself apart right from the beginning, as its title sequences are displayed against a stark backdrop as Neeson walks towards the camera down a flight of steps after committing the film’s opening act, which will haunt him more than we can yet guess. But for all its ambition, “A Walk Among the Tombstones” left me a bit cold, especially in its detective angle. My personal attachment for the procedural in crime films is well documented, and while “A Walk Among the Tombstones” will certainly impact those looking for a deviant serial killer flick, I wanted something a little more cerebral. Neeson’s Detective Scudder seems intelligent, yet Frank’s screenplay barely registers more than a minute or so on the actual progression of finding the killers. It’s all given in quick edits of eye witnesses succinctly describing a certain aspect of the murderers and the crime scene. It all felt a bit compact, rushed and too easy and, ultimately, disappointed me.

The Skeleton Twins

 Shame on the trailers for ruining would should have been the incandescent moment in Craig Johnson’s stellar “The Skeleton Twins”. Fortunately, the rest of the film is just as good as the impromptu lip sync between Bill Hader and Kristin Wiig that centerpieces the promotional marketing. And what’s even more surprising about the film are the performances from Wiig and Hader as estranged brother and sister who reconnect after Hader’s attempted suicide and spend a few weeks together. Both have deep familial issues they’re working through, and both actors reveal a stark humanity within cliched ‘indie’ paradigms. “The Skeleton Twins” excels at pretty much everything… even the secondary characters portrayed by Luke Wilson as Wiig’s husband and Ty Burrell as a past figure in Hader’s complicated love life. The emotions and repertoire stirred up throughout the film consistently reveal how messy, imperfect and, ultimately, affirming the curve balls of life routinely are.

The Equalizer

At the opposite end of the spectrum lies Antoine Fuqua’s “The Equalizer”. This is quite possibly the worst film of the year. Feeling (and looking) like a throwback to the terrible action films of the 80’s- for goodness sakes the finale takes place in a Home Depotesque retail building that turns into the grounds for World War III- “The Equalizer” is dumb, loud and pretty much insulting to even fans of the action genre. Denzel Washington is the titular bad ass, brought out of bad assery retirement when a girl he befriends (Chloe Grace Moretz) becomes a punching bag for the Russian mafia. Oh yes, those Russkies with their full body tattoos and twirling black mustaches. He becomes untouchable, dealing his own brand of justice and befriending a chubby security guard along the way, teaching him the ways of life and destroying half of Boston without a single person noticing. “Then Melissa Leo shows up with husband Bill Pullman to utter lines like “he didn’t come here for forgiveness. He came here for permission!” “The Equalizer” is humorless, condescending and antiquated in just about every respect.

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