On the Silver Screen – A Walk Among The Tombstones

Sep 21, 2014 | Posted by in Movies

Scott Frank writes and directs this adaptation of the Lawrence Block novel A Walk Among the Tombstones where Matthew Scudder (Liam Neeson) is hired by drug kingpin Kenny Kristo (Dan Stevens) to investigate the capture and murder of his wife. Through his investigation Scutter uncovers a more sinister agenda than he originally thought.

As described the plot seems somewhat typical of the genre and I suppose it is but it’s such a well crafted story that the familiarity of the plot doesn’t really cause any issues. The mystery plays out slowly and deliberately as Scudder checks all the leads and clues leading him down a path of unpredictable intrigue. Information is supplied at the right points and builds up the suspense nicely. I really liked how none of the characters were entirely innocent -save for the people kidnapped- and everyone had something that they wanted to hide from everyone else, it all made the world feel more realistic and dangerous with corruption at every corner.

A Walk Among the TombstonesNeeson plays the character of Scudder perfectly giving him lots of depth through his actions and the way he delivers his lines. Scudder is clearly a man who has seen a lot of terrible things and struggles to get through the day sometimes but prides himself on being a good man with a desire to help those who need it. Scudder’s altruistic side is shown through his relationship with TJ (Brian ‘Astro’ Bradley), a young man who is disadvantaged in life and helps him when he’s inept at using computers. Scudder takes pity on TJ and helps him to find his next meal while enlisting him to help with the case and passing on some of his wisdom and experience along the way. In many ways TJ is used as a proxy for the audience to help us learn more about Scudder’s character and methods. This works really well generally helping to build up a secondary mystery surrounding Scudder’s motivations as well as a part of his past that he doesn’t tell anyone but informs his giving up drinking some years prior. He seems to have some self enforced ignorance where he only chooses to pay attention to the aspects of people he is able to sympathise with. Scudder’s character is riddled with complexity making him a very compelling person to watch.

The story does an impressive job of making the character of Kenny Kristo somewhat likeable in the sense that he has had something happen to him that nobody ever should have to go through which makes the people who did this worse than him. Dan Stevens imbues the character with plenty of charisma helping the audience to feel sympathy for his situation. Perhaps the film teaches the audience to overlook the shadier side of Kristo’s occupation in favour of the horrible events that happened to him.

People expecting a film along the same lines as Taken will likely be disappointed here; despite the fact that the film is trailed as an action movie resembling Taken the end result is something quite different. There is very little in the way of action sequences here, instead we have long scenes of manipulation and intrigue as Scudder uses his particular set of skills to investigate the murder. There is a scene where he threatens the kidnappers over the phone shot in a very similar way to the equivalent iconic scene in Taken but that’s more or less where the similarities end. Not that there’s no action in the film but it is sporadic and feels earned when it does happen.

If there was to be any criticism it’s that the film is a little too long. Some of the scenes around the second act feel a bit overlong and repetitious. There are a few where Scudder merely has information he already knows confirmed so some trimming could have been done there. I also feel that more could have been made of his relationship with TJ, I understand that they were going for a father/son vibe but there was definitely more emphasis that could have been placed on it in the story as a whole.

  • 8/10
    A Walk Among the Tombstones - 8/10


A fantastic story well told where Liam Neeson gives a powerhouse performance as a retired detective who has had a long and eventful life. The story is played out very well teasing the dual mysteries of the story and Matthew Scudder’s past throughout the film nicely. Some scenes in the second act feel a little drawn out but in general the film is nicely paced and superbly executed. Those looking for another Taken will be sorely disappointed but the lack of similarities is a very good thing when the tradeoff is a great story.