Walk among the Tombstones review

Liam Neeson stars in Lawrence Block’s A Walk Among the Tombstones

Thank goodness for Liam Neeson Crimeziners. If you’ve got kidnapped female relatives, he is definitely the one to call. Let’s face it, he is so introspectively crumpled and Liam Neesonish there isn’t a felonious spouse-snatcher, or kiddy-bothering ransom merchant anywhere who can match his patented soft-Irish charm and “troubled-look-to-camera thoughtfulness”.

How appropriate then, that Neeson should take the lead as the Crimetastic Mathew Scudder in Walk Among the Tombstones the latest cinematic interpretation of Crime legend Lawrence Block’s grand oeuvre. Many with better memories than Crimezines cognac addled collective consciousness will be just about able to recall the 1986 Scudder movie 8 Million Ways to Die, starring Jeff Bridges and Rosanna Arquette. Apparently this cinematic marvel barely made enough buckeroos to cover the bar bill.

It is perhaps no surprise then, that Scott Frank, screen writing genius behind Elmore Leonard’s Get Shorty, Out of Sight and [cof] Marley and Me, reckons it took ten long years to get this movie made. That’s a lot of Hollyweird spritzer brunches, and air-kissing focus groups for one man to endure. But Crimezine commends his tenacity. Mr. Frank is a strong advocate of adult-orientated crime movies that don’t involve superhero costumes. But, he reckons that the time is now past when such movies can be made with the frequency they once were. He even doubts that a movie like Get Shorty could be made in today’s movie making climate. Those that do make it are the exception he says.

With this in mind, Crimezine was eager to take a walk amongst the aforementioned tombstones. With the forces of righteousness on its side—surely this move will be unable to fail? Welllll. Nesson is awesome as Scudder and the movie gets off to a rip-roaring start, examining his back-story motivation. The power of the Scudder books is brought to life in an admirable way, incorporating the former detectives boozehound past and twelve-steps present. And Brian “Astro” Bradley is adorable as Scudder acolyte TJ. Expectations run high and one just can’t help but get a thrill of pleasure when Neeson growls the classic Scudder line, “I do favors for friends”.

But then we meet the supporting cast. None of whom are bad per se—but there are no stand out performances whatsoever and the remainder of the movie unwinds like a low-budget teleplay. Grungy nastiness abounds, as does questionable motivation, grisly mutilation and industrial strength misogyny from two limply thuggish kidnappers—who appear to be recent overacting graduates from the Hollyweird Academy of bad guys. It is all very disturbing, but not for the right reasons. Scott Frank thinks TV is the new home for ambitious screenwriters. Seeing this movie one can perhaps understand why.

Crimezine wholeheartedly recommends the outstanding Scudder novels by Lawrence Block. Start with the first: The Sins of the Fathers (1976). Contact Lawrence and buy his books at: http://lawrenceblock.com/

http://www.awalkamongthetombstones.net/

The Drop Dennis Lehane Crimezine

Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini: standout performances in The Drop

Everybody loves a good heist movie—right Crimeziners? Thing is, The Drop is much more than just another heist movie, it is a slow burning tale of manipulation based around Brooklyn Bar Marv’s. James Gandolfini is the marvelous Marv, an on the ropes bar manager who used to own the place until his gambling debts forced him to sell up to the new owners—a Chechen organized crime syndicate.

The Chechens needless to say are very bad people—the kind of gangsters who would hack you up and dump you in the East river in a New York second if they thought you were trying to steal their money. Who would do such a thing? Plenty of folks as it turns out, because the Chechens are using the bar as a “drop joint” a collection front for their ill gotten loot. And in the down at heel environs of Marv’s Place, there are a whole host of bottom feeders stupid—or desperate enough to give it a go.

However, the real star of this movie is simple-minded barman Bob Saginowski played by Tom Hardy. Bob is a sweet guy who puts up with bitter uncle Marv, because he doesn’t have options. But Bob’s life changes irrevocably one dark winter night, as he heads home and finds a battered puppy abandoned in a trashcan. Who would do such a thing?

Enter nutso neighborhood character Eric, who has gifted the battered puppy as a nasty surprise to his ex Nadia. [Noomi Girl with a Dragon Tattoo Rapace.] Needless to say Eric is non too happy when Bob and Nadia hook up and begin nursing the puppy back to health. Bottom feeder Eric has many cruel and creepy surprises up his sleeve for the young couple, all delivered with his characteristic sniveling nastiness.

Just as it seems things cannot get any worse for Bob, a junky duo snatch the till takings at the bar. They want the drop money, but settle for five large instead. Not much money in the scheme of things but the Chechens want their money back on the hurry up. What is a guy to do?

The Drop was based on the Dennis Lehane short story Animal Shelter. Lehane wrote the screenplay for the movie, which after his outstanding record of success with projects such as Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, Shutter Island is a natural progression. This movie isn’t exactly Lehane’s first rodeo as a screenwriter. he has written three episodes of the award winning series The Wire and worked as writer and creative consultant on the crimetastic HBO series Boardwalk Empire.

It is rare to see a screenplay this real or this engaging. Standout performances by Gandolfini and Tom Hardy are so good you almost don’t want The Drop to end—This was Gandolfini’s last movie before he died. He chain smokes and waddles corpulently through every scene and whilst his performance provides an outstanding epitaph, one cannot help wishing the great man had shown a little more concern for his personal welfare. Run don’t walk. Go see The Drop today.

The Drop Dennis Lehane

Kisses—Tom Hardy and Rocco the pitbull star in the Drop

 

http://thefilmstage.com/news/ahead-of-the-drop-read-dennis-lehanes-animal-rescue-and-watch-films-tiff-conference/

Crimezine Tony Bulmer

The Rover: more murders than you can shake a dingos donger at

Strewth Crimeziners. There’s not even a moment to say g’day and wouldn’t you know it, a truckload of bleary-eyed bludgers have just stolen Guy Pearce’s car. But the great man isn’t about to chuck a wobbly, no mate. Guy is a man who gets even, no matter what the price.

Now Mr. Pearce is, as many will know, is a Crimezine favorite. He played the charming Mike Young in 80’s soap Neighbors but has since redeemed himself considerably, starring in such cinematic classics as Ravenous, LA. Confidential and er… The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

Well, you can be assured there are no queens in this desert Crimeziners. It is dryer than a drovers dog out there in the outback. And you can be certain there is even less happening there, in a post apocalyptic Australia, than on a work week Tuesday in Wisconsin. It is however cinematically “Atmospheric” and if you enjoy that kind of thing, that is just fine and dandy. To add to viewing enjoyment the endless panoramic vistas are accompanied by a soundtrack composed by a particularly heavily drugged and tone-deaf Velvet Underground fan, whose hobbies include listening to flies and drawing his nails slowly down a blackboard.

So what can liven this thing up we hear you ask. Well, there are the murders of course—a lot of murders. There is wounding too and cruelty to midgets, but mainly murders. There is also a soupçon of roadside crucifixion, but Director David Michôd is just funning with us here, in a way that might lead us into thinking something is actually going to happen. Not much does. Then there are some more murders.

We would like to say the pace picks up when facially ravaged and perennially sweaty Pearce meets the wounded and mentally challenged Rey, played by Robert Pattinson. It didn’t—there are however more murders to look forward to. And all the while we were wondering about Guy Pearce’s hair: Alopecia? An engaging sub plot that we liked very much.

There is a thriving genre of artistically shot “horror in the desert” movies. If you liked films like 29 Palms and The Hills Have Eyes, and Mad Max, you may very well enjoy this movie a great deal. The poobahs at the Cannes film festival did not, and you just know that if a film is too artsy for those bludgers—it is very artsy indeed.

Now, there is a point to relentless horror Crimeziners, but it is a very long time in coming and standout moments by the chilling Gillian Jones aside, this movie is deader than a dingo’s donger. Fair dinkum? We thought so. Now where are those tinnies? A golden throat charmer was never more sorely needed.

Sin City -Micky Rourke as Marv

Micky Rourke as Marv in Sin City a Dame to Kill For

New York City. West 34th. It is raining. Shambling concrete towers reach for the ominous sky. Crimezine is here for one reason: to see the new Frank Miller/ Robert Rodriguez crime thriller—Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.

It has been a while since the last Sin City epic Crimeziners—2005 to be exact, which is an eternity in Hollyweird terms. Why you may ask when the original genre busting movie made big box office buckeroos? Well, the similarly styled Spirit movie, also written and directed by Miller sank  faster than an Italian cruiseship and lost almost as much money. Still, best not mention that eh?

The fabulous Marv played by Micky Rourke is back once again and he has been drinking…heavily. You just know that means trouble right Crimeziners? Especially for those frat-boy funsters who are setting fire to the Sin City derelict down on his luck. Meanwhile, supersmug teenybop heartthrob Joseph Gorden-Levitt is new in town, thinking he can make fast and flashy at Kadie’s place. Trouble you will be pleased to hear is on the way when the cocky young buck imagines he can fleece the sinister Senator Roarke [played by the awesome powers Boothe] at cards. Hideously mangled? You betcha.

So what else happens? Wellllllll. Jessica Alba wiggles her ass and drinks pints of vodka straight out the bottle [Don’t try this one at home children] and a crumple faced Josh Brolin wanders around with a permanent hangover, wondering endlessly in a gravelly voice what the hell is going on.

Bad shit is what is happening dude and lots of it and the pantingly gorgeous femme fatal Ava Lord [Eva Green] is behind much of the upset, ably assisted by the almost supernatural Manute [Dennis Haysbert]. The gorgeous young strumpet elevates the role to Bond Villain proportions. Hurrah! we hear you cry.

Old favorites also make swift appearances—the marginally revamped girls from the old town and a spectral Bruce Willis as John Hartigan. This film really does have a stellar cast and marvelous cameos come in the form of Christopher Lloyd, Ray Liota and Lady Gaga.

Cinematically, the film is much the same as the first—grizzly silhouettes, extreme neo-noir contrasts—weird shit that looks like nuclear fallout drizzling endlessly from the sky. Needless to say, it is always night. As for the action there is lots of that, the decapitation count rides higher than an Islamosupremacist Sunday school outing and there is at one point, a gouging so unspeakably horrible the entire auditorium broke out with cheers/laughter/cries of unmitigated terror.  The sound of actual vomiting could be heard amongst audience members for several minutes after this scene—maybe it was the hotdog/nacho plate combo-meal?

Given that this is the kind of cinematic vehicle we are dealing with, it seems strange that certain critics are leveling accusations of political incorrectness at this movie. To wish that a Frank Miller/Robert Rodriguez movie should be more politically correct is like buying a Motley Crue record and wondering wistfully why it doesn’t sound more like limp-wristed student popsters Cold Play.

Crimezine love, love, loves Frank Miller and Robbo Rodriguez and we love the noirtastic harboiled world that is Sin City.

http://sincity-2.com/

 

Tony Bulmer Raymond Chandler, Satre

Satre (left) and Chandler (right) Live in peace with your pipe.

Greetings Crimeziners. It has been all stations go on Mulholland Drive recently, with a veritable plethora of crimetastic goings on washing in from every conceivable angle. There have been so many publishers and Hollyweird cinematographers thrusting their shamelessly crime-filled wares in our direction, we are quite literally soiling our collective pantaloons with excitement.

Firstly, however, we are very sad to report the tragic demise of much favored [and aged] Crimezine relative Harry Paratesties of the New Hampshire Paratesties legal and taxidermic dynasty. Famed for his contribution to spittoon development and his many valuable insights into, “Just what the hell is wrong with the younger generation anyway.” Uncle Harry will be sadly missed.

Any road up, dear Uncle Harry, or “Badger” as he was inexplicably called by all who knew him, bequeathed Crimezine his vellum bound collection of the entire Brad Thor oeuvre, which has led to many leisured and over-sauced mornings by the swimming pool, as Crimezine cocktail wrangler Consuela tops off glasses with generous pourings of delicious imported breakfast cognac.

Still, enough of the travails of life in West Los Angeles and onwards with the very serious and quite startling revelation that Raymond “Raymondo” Chandler, a man who virtually invented the term hardboiled, is a doppelganger double of garlic chomping Frenchie philosopher and existentialist communist nuisance, John Paul Satre. [Surely Tad Dorgan coined the term hard-boiled? Ed]

Let’s examine the evidence shall we? Well, they both wore bottle thick cheaters for a start. [enough with the Tad Dorganisms. Ed] Additionally, they both suffered from Nausea, although admittedly Chandler’s trouble stemmed from the half gallon of Scotch he swilled back every day rather than existential angst. Both men were of course dedicated advocates of the pipe and unless startled by sudden flash photography, these literary behemoths were never without thick, black, smoke-churning briars hanging from their learned lips.

Then there was the trouble with women. Chandler famously lived with his mom and his wife, a woman old enough to be his mom, for many a long year. Satre on the other hand, slavered after live in lover and all round feminist saucepot Simone de Beauvoir; a Ménage à trois of quite a different kind, as kinky school teacher Simone had a penchant for quite literally “bringing her work home” for Satre to share.

So there we have it Crimeziners—two literary giants—one shared physiognomy. Separated at birth, or one and the same person?
You dear Crimeziner shall be the judge, as once again a bare-chested Consuela is chasing Armando the Guatemalan pool boy around the yard. Intervention will be necessary, as the slip and fall legislation in Southern California is particularly draconian.

Tony Bulmer

Simone de Beauvoir pops one off. Raymond Chandler stands by without judgement.

 

Tony Bulmer

Tony Bulmer rocks New York

CZ: Last time we met, you in Las Vegas you had just released your excellent book The Fine Art of Murder. We were so excited by all the guns and gambling we didn’t think to talk about your very cool past.

T: Yeah, I have been lucky over the years and got to work for some very interesting folks. I spent five years at the legendary Fleetway Comics, publishers of Judge Dredd and 2000AD. I worked on dozens of titles there and developed amongst other things a young adult title called Mystery and Suspense. While it was cool to work there, it was also kind of sad as the British Comics industry was on its last legs.

CZ: How so?

T: Fleetway was bought out by a monster European Entertainment Corporation.

CZ: You also worked for Hard Rock Magazine Metal Hammer.

T: [Laughs] I will never live that one down. The amazing Felix Dennis sold the magazine pretty soon after I left. Felix was a publishing legend and an inspiration. Proof that you can still be a billionaire entrepreneur and a kick ass dissident. Sadly Felix died recently, but his poetry lives on. [Laughs]

CZ: When did you start writing?

T: I have been writing for as long as I can remember and reading too. I read a very wide range of writers from classics like Chandler, to just about every modern crime, mystery and thriller writer you can imagine. I also get a big kick out of literary classics and serious investigative journalism. Writers like Ahmed Rashid rock. I think the trouble with reading so many good writers is that one tends to set the bar very high in terms of personal literary achievement.

CZ: Hence your reputation for pushing barriers?

T: I worked for magazines and newspapers for years. Much of the work was quite dull. I swore that when I started writing for myself, I would write books that had character, backbone and a sense of humor too. Entertaining is a serious business and I treat it as such.

CZ: So you have another genre defying book out. Explain yourself.

T: Conspiracy of Fire is a high-concept thriller. I wanted push my creativity to the limits and offer a very commercial and highly entertaining book that readers would dig because it was so different. I have always been a massive fan of writers like Ian Fleming, who managed to balance a wry pulp sensibility with mass-market appeal.

CZ: This is your seventh book, Most of your other works have been strongly Crime/Mystery centered, how is this one different?

T: I think one of the major things about Crime and Mystery writing is that it shows readers just how bad things can get and then turns that around into a psychologically palatable form that reassures. I think that while a thriller such as Conspiracy of Fire deals with a different structure, the aims are fundamentally the same—murder and redemption, fear of the unknown and the ability of truth and justice to conquer all, despite the odds. I have been a massive fan of thrillers for years and it was always my ambition to write a really good one. I must say I have been disappointed in recent years how jingoistic and repetitive the genre has become. I wanted to kick that into touch and come up with something different.

CZ: How so?

T: I got sick of hearing about square-jawed special-forces loners who had got a political axe to grind. I wanted to develop a more complex and vulnerable character who had strength, integrity and a true moral compass despite the odds. Someone who had humor and decency but who still kicks ass. Someone who is a beacon for justice, freedom, integrity; Someone who supports and stands strong for democracy, but isn’t scared to break the rules when necessary. I think I managed to achieve that in my protagonist Karyn Kane.

CZ: A woman in a man’s world? Isn’t that the other end of the thriller cliché?

T: [Laughs] I think there are very many thriller fans of both sexes who are sick to death of hearing about some dude with his polo shirt tucked into his nomex under-crackers, waxing lyrical about firearms and “suspicious” foreigners with bad personal hygiene. There are exponents of the genre who have taken that stereotype to quite ludicrous extremes. Then, at the other end of the spectrum, there are others who paint their women protagonists as mad and drippy man wannabes, which isn’t very convincing either.

CZ: So tell us about Karyn Kane.

T: The character is in part based on my wife Jeanne, who is an internationally successful commercial Real Estate executive and entrepreneur. I also have a great deal of corporate experience and I wanted to reflect how the struggle against the corporate status quo can affect people of ambition. Karyn Kane, like my wife is a high achiever, like her, she has to deal with a mother who is dying of cancer. Kane is also obsessively dedicated to her work and has a young child who is living with her estranged husband and his feckless new wife. I think anyone who has had a bad divorce will identify very closely with that kind of personal crisis. Then of course there is her day job—Karyn Kane is a deep cover operative for the CIA. She works for the Deep–Five division, who specialize in operations that run outside of the limits of United States Law.

CZ: She sound like quite a gal. What is she up against?

T: Across the world, there is a great deal of anxiety about where the new political and social equilibrium will be. Also, where will the energy to power the future come from? I deal with this directly. Karyn Kane is pitted against a global corporation that has developed a limitless new form of energy production. But the worlds of money politics and power are closely intertwined, as she quickly discovers.

CZ; Politics? Barf. Good luck with that one.

T: [Laughs] We are living in a time where you have to stand up and be counted. Are you going to be part of the problem, or part of the solution? Writers I admire, like Dashiell Hammett and George Orwell understood that. That was in the 1930s and 40s. Well, desperate times are with us once again, and it is my sworn duty as a writer to offer a moral antidote to the horror of it all; something that will inspire and entertain and raise questions amongst anyone who is strong enough to care about anything other than the consume and obey rhetoric that tries to keep us powerless. In America right now there is a political malaise that prefers conspiracy over action. I wanted to draw out that puss-filled conspiracy into the open and offer uplifting and insightful alternatives that offer not only offer hope, but kick ass entertainment.

Conspiracy of Fire by Tony Bulmer is out now.

http://www.tonybulmer.com/

http://www.amazon.com/Conspiracy-Fire-Karyn-Kane-Volume/dp/1500525553/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1406138539&sr=8-1&keywords=tony+bulmer

Black-eyed Blonde

John Banville as Benjamin Black with the Black-eyed Blonde

Top of the morning to you Crimeziners. It is over sixty years since Raymond Chandler’s last great novel the Long Goodbye kicked out the stained glass windows of metaphorical bishop’s residencies everywhere. But now, just as you thought it was safe to go into the confessional, there is a new blonde in town.

The last hired gun to tackle a Chandler reboot was Robert B. Parker with Poodle Springs & Perchance to Dream. And now once again, those nice people at the Chandler estate are opening up the great mans casket to see if there is a dime or three they missed. As luck of the Irish would have it, the pennies on the corpses eyes are pure gold this time out.

As Crimezine has previously mentioned Benjamin Black is the mystery-writing pseudonym of award winning Irish novelist John Banville, a man whose elegantly crafted noir mysteries set in 1950’s Dublin feature a grouchy pathologist known only as Quirke.

Now, Banville cuts an elegant figure in a fedora, but can he cut it when it comes to emulating -one of the most idiosyncratic—and widely copied—authors of the 20th century? Banville certainly follows the Philip Marlowe formula closely, almost too closely on occasion. Then, there is the phenomena of Humphery Bogart to contend with; without question the actor casts a long shadow that over the idea of just who and what Philip Marlowe is, so we should perhaps not be surprised to discover on occasion that Banville is channeling Bogart rather than Chandler. There are perhaps some folks who would argue that is a good thing, because genius though Chandler was, he also had certain faults as a writer, for example, his love of convoluted adverbs, and his ad hoc often whiskey addled, plotting. Thankfully Banville manages to keep such excesses in check.

A popular perception has developed that Chandler’s style consists entirely of clever metaphors and music-hall witticisms. In fact, his language is often far more complex and Banville does an admirable job of emulating the many idiosyncrasies found in Chandler’s work. He keeps the repartee brisk and well timed. This is to be admired but it also draws the clearest distinction between the work of Banville and Chandler as the great Raymondo was never shy of excess—in all its forms.

Hardcore Chandler fans will no doubt have a number of grumbles with this book, but given the quality of the novel as a whole, such complaints can be “walked off” as quickly as Marlowe tackles a crack on the noggin from a boulevard tough guy. Similarly, linguistic aficionados may spot a number of stylistic clangers but these niggle rather than annoy. Historical pedants will likewise find themselves computing the veracity of certain details. But the 1950s, that was a long time ago right?

Then of course there are the Angelenos. It is not clear if Banville has ever been to Los Angeles. He hired native help to “fill in the details”, but cold hard facts are never enough to compensate for the lyrical intensity of a city as complex and enigmatic as The City of Angels; chapter 13 of Chandler’s book Little Sister is a case in point. It is here that Chandler goes off into one of his famous digressions about the city he loved so much; The writing is so good, it made some dude called Michael Connelly want to be a writer—many others too no doubt.

But what of the Black-eyed Blonde, we hear you ask. Well, the trouble starts when hot strutting heiress Clare Cavendish hires Marlowe to hunt down her extra marital man-squeeze Nico Peterson. Unfortunately it transpires that Peterson has gotten dead in a street corner accident but whadya know—young Nico might not be as dead as we think. Marlowe says to the gorgeous young heiress, “As a private eye I’m not completely unknown, but why would a daughter of Dorothea Langrishe of Ocean Heights… choose me to find her missing man?” Why indeed Crimeziners, but we quickly find that this missing persons case leads to murder, betrayal, and the kind of corruption that the Bay City bretheran are only too familiar. Naturally, the wonderful Bernie Ohls makes an appearance, as do a gruesome collection of pugnacious toughs and feckless toffs. Naturally the crumpled and tenacious Marlowe runs rings around all of them with his usual brand of hardboiled wit and double-distilled deduction.

No doubt this book will draw new readers to the Chandler oeuvre, which is no doubt the intention behind this charming time-slip into the world of Philip Marlow. Hurrah to that we say. Start with The Little Sister, The Long Goodbye, and The Big Sleep, also try the short stories Chandler wrote for Pulp magazines like Black Mask—you can get them in collections now, such as the excellent Trouble is my Business. But first, you might want to dip your carefully manicured tootsie in to the brackish waters of nouveau noir from Dublin Ireland—buy The Black-eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black.

We leave you—as it is St Paddy’s day, with a Blackism worthy of Chandler himself. “I can’t decide which are worse, bars that pretend to be Irish, with their plastic shamrocks and shillelaghs, or Cockneyfied joints like the Bull. I could describe it, but I haven’t the heart.”

http://us.macmillan.com/BookCustomPage_New.aspx?isbn=9780805098143

http://crimezine.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/playback-poodle-springs-crimezine-investigates-the-two-books-by-raymond-chandler-that-you-never-read/

https://crimezine.wordpress.com/2012/08/17/raymond-chandler-spins-in-his-casket-as-serious-writer-john-banville-is-commissioned-to-complete-new-adventures-of-philip-marlowe/