Starting off with a bang before descending into a long slow boil of dramatic tension and character development, the adaption of Lawrence Block’s A Walk Among The Tombstones is not for the faint of heart.
The Lone Wolf
Based on the best selling series of mystery novels, the film stars Liam Neeson as Matt Scudder, an ex-NYPD cop who now works as an unlicensed private investigator operating just outside of the law. Scudder is a relic of the noir laced alleyways of the 1940s, whose boots to the ground PI work has him taking any and all jobs he can get his hands on. But when Dan Stevens’ sophisticated drug dealer Kenny Kristo comes calling for Scudder’s help to track down the men who killed his wife, Scudder finds himself facing a situation that is far darker than he could have ever imagined.
Author Lawrence Block has long stated that Neeson was his ideal casting choice from the beginning, and it’s easy to see why. While not afraid to take on the action, Neeson’s real talent as Scudder comes in his portrayal of this broken down man who somehow picks himself up and keeps going. Neeson also channels Scudder’s conflicting and constantly changing moral code (except when it comes to having sworn off alcohol, which he sticks to rigidly). Neeson’s strength of character as well as his size also allow Scudder a presence and authority, which he especially needs when he gets on the end of a phone and barks orders at the killers he’s chasing. Neeson truly offers up something refreshing that his fans will love.
A Morally Ambiguous Supporting Cast
It’s not just Neeson alone who shines in A Walk Among the Tombstones, as Dan Stevens and Boyd Holbrook both give gutsy performances as the conflicting Kristo brothers. First off, there’s Stevens who continues his magnificent streak of top performances after ‘Downton Abbey’ and ‘The Guest’ with another very different and very challenging character. Kristo is a successful upper-class preppy drug dealer, whose acumen for business has netted him a very healthy product and who runs afoul of some very nasty villains. While never earning Scudder’s implicit trust, he does become somewhat of an alley to the unlicensed private eye and is very commanding in the scenes that he shares with Neeson.
Holbrook stars as his unhinged, loser younger brother Peter, a drug addict who has left the business to Kenny, and plunged headfirst into the product. Holbrook excels at portraying the completely flawed Peter, creating a great counter balance to Kenny and a foil of some kind for Scudder, and again he handles the scenes he shares with Neeson well. Both of these young actors are serious new talents to keep an eye on, and their performances in A Walk Among The Tombstones will only bolster their careers in a film that demands plenty from its actors.
A Heart of Darkness
If there is a palette that defines A Walk Among The Tombstones, then it’s the shade of black and all the darkness and tension that it can conjure. New York City becomes a noir-drenched paradise as Scudder wonders its cold streets searching for leads, and the killers that have left them. There are no heroes in this film, just fractured human beings who have the chance of redemption, and can only attain it by hunting down the worst scum known to man.
The evil that is present in A Walk Among The Tombstones creates a mood that is usually captured in the best horror movies, creating an unnerving sense of dread in the audience as well as a heart pounding thriller that will keep them on the edge of their seats. When Scudder does face down the villains of the film, it will get audiences pumped.
A Walk Among The Tombstones is a dark ride, but its emphasis on character development and a genre-bending approach will keep audiences engaged for an intense roller coaster cinema ride.
Image source: Roadshow Films.