A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014)

US / 114 minutes / color / Cross Creek, Exclusive Media, Endgame, Jersey, Double Feature, Universal Dir & Scr: Scott Frank Pr: Danny DeVito, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher, Brian Oliver, Tobin Armbrust Story: A Walk Among the Tombstones (1992) by Lawrence Block Cine: Mihai Malaimare Jr Cast: Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, David Harbour, Boyd Holbrook, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Brian “Astro” Bradley, Mark Consuelos, Adam David Thompson, Sebastian Roché, Laura Birn, Razane Jammal, Danielle Rose Russell, Marielle Heller.

This second big-screen outing for Lawrence Block’s enduringly popular series hero Matt Scudder was far better received than the first, 8 MILLION WAYS TO DIE (1986) dir Stephen J. Roth, with Jeff Bridges as Scudder. I actually quite liked the 1986 movie so long as I could persuade myself to forget it was supposed to be a Scudder outing—easy enough to do, since there were idiotic changes to the canonical version, notably a shift in venue from NYC to California. No such fears here, and apparently Block himself has given Liam Neeson his seal of approval as the screen incarnation of Scudder . . . although he would say that, wouldn’t he?

Liam Neeson as Matt Scudder

Back in 1991 Scudder was an NYPD cop. Off-duty and drunk at breakfast time, he shot three armed robbers, two fatally. However, a stray bullet of his struck and killed Continue reading

Chloe (2009)

France, Canada, US / 97 minutes / color / Studio Canal, Montecito, Sony Dir: Atom Egoyan Pr: Ivan Reitman, Joe Medjuck, Jeffrey Clifford Scr: Erin Cressida Wilson Story: Nathalie . . . (2003 movie) Cine: Paul Sarossy Cast: Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Max Thieriot, R.H. Thomson, Mishu Vellani, Nina Dobrev, Meghan Heffern.

Chloe 2009 - Catherine (Moore) tormented by the machinations of Chloe (Seyfried)

 Catherine (Moore) tormented by the machinations of Chloe (Seyfried)

Toronto gynecologist Catherine Stewart (Moore), discovering seemingly incontrovertible evidence that the reason music professor husband David (Neeson) failed to make it home in time for his surprise birthday party was that he was dallying with pretty student Miranda (Heffern), hires classy hotel hooker Chloe Sweeney (Seyfried) to test his loyalty. In a series of meetings between the two women, Chloe describes in detail her progressively more intimate encounters with David, up to and including their first full intercourse.

During the evening after that revelation by Chloe to Catherine, Catherine and David attend a Beethoven recital by their pianist son Michael (Thieriot); afterward, Catherine is so appalled by David’s intimations of love for her that she rushes to the hotel where Chloe plies her trade and drags her to a room where the two seduce each other.

But then, when Catherine tricks Chloe into a meeting where David is also present, it’s perfectly obvious David has no recollection of ever having seen her before; it seems Chloe has, from the outset, been godgaming Catherine, has been intent on seducing her, that she wants to be Catherine . . . In one of her more ferocious attempts to put herself into the place of Catherine, Chloe lies: “He says that, when he touches you, he feels like he’s cheating on me. Ain’t that crazy?” When Catherine finally rejects her, by which time David is of course out of bounds, Chloe tries to seize Catherine’s affections by seducing Michael—who, a gawky teenager who has yet to escape his mother’s choice for him of frightful pale blue underpants, is only too ready to oblige.

As we’d anticipate from a remake of a French movie, the sensibilities on display are far more European than the North American norm, in particular that it succeeds in being about sex, with some fairly graphic moments, yet stays far away from hack erotica; its affect is very much like that of UNFAITHFUL (2002), whose origins were similar.

This is the movie Neeson was making when his wife Natasha Richardson suffered her fatal skiing accident; he apparently took a few days off, then returned to finish off shooting. Plenty of US critics felt it was unfortunate that the tragedy wasn’t marked by a better movie, but really there’s nothing wrong with Chloe as an exploration of obsession and a sort of gender-reversed riff on FATAL ATTRACTION (1987)—although it’s a far more intelligent and less lurid variant on that theme. That said, its original, Nathalie . . . (2003), is by far the better (and, despite largely eschewing nudity and simulated sex, the more movingly erotic) movie.

On Amazon.com: Chloe