When a drug dealer’s wife gets kidnapped and murdered, he enlists the help of Matt Scudder (Liam Neeson), an unlicensed, ex-cop, private eye to track down the men who did it. Soon Scudder realizes these men have done this before and they’re probably going to do it again.
Based on the novel by Lawrence Block and written and directed by Scott Frank, A Walk Among the Tombstones (rated R) is a modern day (although it takes place in 1999) noir thriller. Scudder goes door to door asking questions, slowly unraveling the mystery, until finally he comes face to face with the men he’s been searching for.
I’m a fan of Scott Frank’s writing. Previously he wrote the screen adaptations of Get Shorty, Out of Sight and Minority Report. Behind the camera, his last (and only) directorial effort was 2007’s The Lookout, a film I really enjoyed. When I found out he was behind Tombstones, my anticipation for the film rose.
Liam Neeson plays Matt Scudder about the same as he’s played a lot of his roles lately: a man with a certain set of skills. This time his character has a darker past. He’s a recovering alcoholic ex-cop who tells his rock-bottom story (the opening scene of the movie) at one AA meeting after another. Even without seeing the whole scene, we know there’s more to his story than he’s letting on.
Eventually Scudder meets T.J., a young homeless boy who seems attracted to the P.I. lifestyle. He imagines himself as a young Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe but doesn’t understand the danger the life can bring.
The movie rolls along at a slow pace but is never boring. David Harbour plays one of the villains of the film and chews the scenery up quite nicely. (Harbour was also in The Equalizer but has a meatier role in this film) Neeson handles the character well (we’ve seen it before) but never phones it in, thankfully. And Frank’s writing and direction is solid.
I give it a B+