Based on the Block’s tenth novel A Walk Among the Tombstones has a classic film noir feel to it, a distinct touch of retro and good old-fashioned story telling.
The opening scene, set in the early nineties, gives us the back-story: Matthew Scudder (Liam Neeson) is an alcoholic NYC cop who drunkenly stumbles into a shootout that goes terribly awry. Cut to 1999 and Scudder is now an unlicensed private eye who goes to AA meetings and does ‘favours’ in exchange for ‘gifts’.
When drug addict Peter (Boyd Holbrook) convinces Scudder to meet his drug-dealer brother Kenny (Dan Stevens), the private eye is reluctantly caught up in a serial killer case.
While investigating Kenny’s wife’s kidnapping Scudder discovers a trail that eventually leads to a pair of murdering sociopaths (David Harbour, Adam David Thompson). But he also finds an unlikely helper and friend in the homeless black teenager TJ (Brain “Astro” Bradley).
Things cone to a head when the killers kidnap a new victim, the young daughter of Russian drug dealer Yuri (Sebastian Roche) and Scudder takes over the negotiations ending in a very bloody scene in a basement.
A Walk Among the Tombstones is another notch in Liam Neeson’s ever growing action movie collection and in more than one scene you can’t help but feel you’ve seen it all before in Taken. But his performance is strong and is sure to pull in the fans.
Writer/director Scott Frank obviously knows what he is doing and creates a dark atmosphere, holds the suspense and even there are a few long “bit” in the middle he succeeds in tying it all together in the end.
Setting the film in 1999 gives it a nice touch but unnecessary subplots like TJ’s sickle-cell anaemia distract from the main story and slow the tempo down to much.
Overall A Walk Among the Tombstones is a beautifully shot film noir with a strong story, a solid leading man and creepy bad guys. And since there are sixteen other novels this could be a launch of a series for Neeson to apply his special set of skill in.