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A Walk Among the Tombstones [2014] [R] - 4.8.8



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Unlike the MPAA we do not assign one inscrutable rating based on age, but 3 objective ratings for SEX/NUDITY, VIOLENCE/GORE and PROFANITY on a scale of 0 to 10, from lowest to highest, depending on quantity and context.

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Sex & Nudity
Violence & Gore
1 to 10


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A drug dealer (Dan Stevens) hires an unlicensed investigator and former NYPD detective (Liam Neeson) to find his kidnapped wife in New York City. A wave of kidnappings has hit the city's drug lords and they cannot trust the police to help. Also with Boyd Holbrook, Sebastian Roché, Whitney Able, Stephanie Andujar, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, David Harbour, Adam David Thompson, Eric Nelsen and Brian "Astro" Bradley. Directed by Scott Frank. [1:54]

SEX/NUDITY 4 - The opening credits show a close-up of a woman's face as a man's lips kiss it briefly, then the camera zeros in on the faces of two men looking at her, close-ups show a man's hand on a woman's upper arm and between two female knees and we see duct tape over the woman's mouth and a tear trickling down one cheek (the film focuses on two men that we hear sexually torture kidnapped women and a teenaged girl; these acts are usually off-screen).
 Paintings of a woman in two apartments reveal uncovered breasts, nipples and abdomen; a man says that he is in love with her and she is his brother's wife. A close-up shows a man holding a woman against a wall and tearing off her loosely knit top to reveal significant cleavage in a low-cut bra; the man kisses her lips and she screams as the camera cuts away to end the scene. We see snapshots of a woman, taken through a window in her apartment and a few pictures show her without her sweater and wearing a bra, revealing some cleavage, and a bare midriff. A flashback shows a woman wearing a sleeveless undershirt and panties.
 A kidnapper tells a detective over the phone that he will send him a cut-off breast of a teen girl if a ransom demand is not met; the detective suggests the caller is gay, referring to the caller's criminal partner as the "boyfriend." A teen boy says that society feeds sperm-killing sodas to poor young men in order to eradicate poor people. On a bed a clothed man orders a woman to choose between her breasts (we do not see her breasts, only her face and sexual violence is implied; please see the Violence/Gore category for more details).

VIOLENCE/GORE 8 - The film involves violent murders of kidnapped women and focuses on two men that we hear sexually torture kidnapped women and a teenaged girl; these acts are usually off-screen.
 A flashback of a bar robbery shows a police officer walking toward a crowd of people around a woman crying over a child sitting against her and we see a large hole in a 7-year-old's eye socket with blood covering her face and chest; we hear a bullet ricocheted into her eye, killing her instantly. In a flashback, a disheveled police officer in a bar witnesses robbers break in with shotguns and shoot the bartender, who falls backwards, dead (no blood is shown); the officer chases, kills two men with a handgun, and wounds a third in the thigh twice (no blood is shown).
 A detective breaks into a high rooftop shed and finds pictures of a woman (please see the Sex/Nudity category for more details) when another man appears and stands in the doorway with a long knife; the detective says, "I'll take that away and stick it in your neck" and the knife man drops the knife and confesses to watching two other men kill the pictured woman before stepping off the roof; we hear a woman scream and the camera cuts to street where the man lies in a pile of trash bags with his face covered in streams of blood, presumably dead. Two men return a teen girl to a man in a cemetery and as she walks toward her rescuer blood drips on her shoes and a close-up shows that the fingers of her right hand are cut off at the second knuckle, dripping blood; three men and the rescuer fight the kidnappers and one man is shot under a bulletproof vest while another man receives a body shot and rolls down a small hill, dying on his back, gasping and having a bloody mouth and nose. A wounded man is strangled by another man with a thin wire and we see the victim struggling and gasping, and then dying with open eyes.
 A man opens the trunk of a car and finds packages wrapped in paper and tape; he picks one up and inserts a knife blade, we see blood gush out and the scene ends; we hear that criminals cut up the man's wife and wrapped the parts in packages. A man finds a dead man in a basement along with a table full of ropes, knives and other weapons, as well as a sink of water containing a bloody hacksaw and a bloody cleaver. A man finds handcuffs and pools of blood on a kitchen floor and finds another man dead on the stairs, eyes staring, blood dripping down several wooden steps while another man is seen counting money; the first man falls down the steps and he and the money man struggle over a dropped handgun, a knife and a stun gun; they wrestle across the floor and smash a small wooden table to pieces, one man throws a cleaver, which misses the target and sticks into the chest of a dead bloody body, propped up in a seated position against a wall; one man uses a stun gun to stun the other man twice, then picks up a handgun and shoots toward the camera, hitting the other man in the head with some blood spatter, as he falls dead.
 A detective and another man enter a house with drawn handguns and handcuff a man inside to a pipe on a kitchen wall and the detective leaves after the other man decides to execute the man; the man hits the handcuffed man on the side of the head with a whiskey bottle (please see the Substance Use category for more details) and he grunts.
 On a bed a clothed man orders a woman to choose between her breasts by saying "Touch the one you want to keep," and lying over her, he dangles a length of wire over her head, implying impending strangulation and she chooses one breast; we hear her scream as the camera cuts away, the implication being that the man cut off a breast.
 Half a dozen scenes feature two men at night in shadows in a van, following women as they drive to their homes; they drive by their houses several times and they cut off the women's cars in different scenes and in long shots, force the struggling women into the back or the side door of the van and drive away. Two men see a boy and beat him with fists and kicks in a long shot; we see him in a hospital bed with a large black eye and a swollen lip from a beating. Two men jump a detective and knock him down, putting a ball bat into his stomach and making his mouth bloody; the men argue with the detective about drug dealers and killers in the neighborhood and let him go. We see a teenage girl at home with her bed-ridden, unmoving, staring mother and she hears a muffled noise and then finds her dog lying unconscious on the floor, his feet wiggling (later the dog is fine); a man grabs the girl by the shoulders, covers her mouth and the scene ends, while the next day the family's nurse cries as a detective investigates. A detective wraps his hand in a scarf and punches another man who looks through a square window in a metal door at him; outside, two other men point guns at him and put him in the back of a van where government agents question him about drug dealers in the neighborhood and release him.
 A flashback shows a man answering a series of payphone calls and leaving a money drop on a stormy night in a city; the calls tell him that his wife is in his car and then at home, but she is in neither place and the man punches a large mirror (his knuckles are seen bandaged later and red spots of blood show on each knuckle).
 A tape recording plays and we hear moans of pain from a woman, female screams and a man singing. A headline in a library reads, "Remains of Queens Woman Found in Vacant Lot" as a voiceover says that packages of body parts were found later, including a leg in a dumpster (we do not see the packages).
 A man wounded in the abdomen lifts his shirt to show a bloody hole and blood flow before asking another man to go get the first aid kit. We see a detective with blood on his temple and cheek watching police cruisers with flashing lights and police officers putting yellow tape around a house.
 We see but do not hear a man whose wife died, speaking on a phone in his apartment window, throwing his hands around angrily. A cemetery groundskeeper removes plastic bags filled with an unknown material from a pond at work; he later tells a detective that he never looked into the bags, but a second groundskeeper opened one bag and quit work immediately. A teenage girl walks by a van where two men are stopped on a street and we later hear that they kidnapped her. A teen boy has a gun and bullets that he says he saw being thrown into a dumpster; a man tells him to put it to his temple and pull the trigger, because that is what will happen anyway if the boy keeps the gun.
 A man asks a detective to help his brother, whose wife has been kidnapped and the detective tells the brother that he knows the brother wants to kill the kidnappers. A man on a payphone tells a detective, "They are just body parts after they are in the van" as the caller plays with a switchblade. A detective says that a fellow AA member painted a bathroom with the blood of another man. A man says that he paid a large ransom for his wife and the criminals killed her anyway. We hear that a boy has Sickle Cell Anemia and he was abandoned at a hospital at age 11.
 The streets and one abandoned apartment building in a city are dark, dirty and filled with debris in several scenes. A man passes by abandoned businesses and broken walls filled with graffiti pictures, mostly of computers and a mention of Y2K disasters to come. In a close-up, a man polishes knives, hooks, handcuffs, metal cutters, and wires. A man enters a bathroom and we hear but do not see him urinate.

PROFANITY 8 - About 33 F-words and its derivatives, 15 scatological terms, 6 anatomical terms, 6 mild obscenities, name-calling (dumb, moron, insane, stupid, bangers, boyfriend, clucker, chickenhead, [genetic F-word deleted], Bert and Ernie), stereotypical references to men, women, teenagers, alcoholics, addicts, AA members, drug dealers, kidnappers, ex-cops, Russians. Exclamations (shut-up), 8 religious exclamations (e.g. Oh God, God, God Knows, Oh Christ, Jesus, Holy [scatological term deleted). [profanity glossary]

SUBSTANCE USE - A woman in an apartment snorts a line of white powder and a man bends over another line of white powder as the camera cuts away, an investigator asks several men in different scenes if they are dealing drugs and one man admits to dealing and another man says that he still deals drugs while a third man says he no longer deals drugs out of his neighborhood store, after falling drunkenly up a flight of stone steps a man slurs his words to himself and begins to tie a rubber tube around his bicep in preparation for shooting up drugs (he stops and does not inject anything and we do not see the drugs), a kidnapper tells a drug dealer on the phone that the dealer's wife is worth $1 Million because she weighs the same as 50 kilos of cocaine powder, a man says that he did not do drugs until he was 28 and had retuned home from the army in Desert Storm, three people put eye drops into the eyes of an unmoving female patient in a hospital bed at home, and we hear that a teen boy is receiving Demerol for pain after a beating and Sickle Cell Anemia attack (we see no drugs). A police detective becomes drunk in a bar during a morning and we see him quickly consuming two shots of whiskey, a man drinks from a whiskey bottle at home and places it on a kitchen table, a man drinks from a bottle and breaks it against another man's head (please see the Violence/Gore category for more details), three men sit at a table in a bar and have rum-and-coke drinks in front of them (they are not shown drinking), a man stands up at an AA meeting and says that he is an alcoholic and an addict, a man stands up at an AA meeting and says he quit drinking eight years ago and a woman stands and reads the 12 Steps of AA. A man smokes a cigarette outside, at an AA meeting and at home, a waitress in a diner tells a man not to light his cigarette and he goes outside, and a bar is smoky from an ashtray on the bar top with a lit cigarette burning in it.

DISCUSSION TOPICS - Violence toward women, alcoholism, Alcoholics Anonymous, drug dealers, sobriety, murder, mayhem, revenge, justice, redemption.

MESSAGE - Women and girls are at risk for violence and torture.

Special Keywords: S4 - V8 - P8 - MPAAR

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A CAVEAT: We've gone through several editorial changes since we started covering films in 1992 and some of our early standards were not as stringent as they are now. We therefore need to revisit many older reviews, especially those written prior to 1998 or so; please keep this in mind if you're consulting a review from that period. While we plan to revisit and correct older reviews our resources are limited and it is a slow, time-consuming process.

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