The world of A Walk Among the Tombstones is a world of rich drug lords living in the lofty apartments, homeless shaming and grotesque murders developing on the streets below, and the twain meeting more often than not. Illegal drugs, however, aren’t the only drugs that run amok; alcoholism also permeates the steamy city sidewalks like it flows through the blood of those wishing to escape this life.
Enter Matthew Scudder (played by Neeson), an ex-cop-turned-private-eye who has been internally marginalized from this world ever since a certain misfire in his last patrolling. This alienation, however, serves as a blessing in disguise as it marks the beginning of his journey of personal recovery from his own demons – a journey that continues throughout the film and even into the climax.
To sum up A Walk Among the Tombstones‘s parts, Scudder’s services are sought to help solve the murder of a drug trafficker’s wife. As he strides in his walk, he meets some grungy but helpful characters including the homeless teenager TJ (played by Brian “Astro” Bradley, most recently of Earth to Echo fame). TJ joins Scudder like a stray dog who has finally found a master worthy of following, and together they take the case.
Under Scott Frank’s effective direction, this film hearkens back to the noir classics of yesteryear. Sharp camera angles and even sharper contrasts between light and dark control the action in a strangely distant manner. At times, the musical underscore feel out of place, but such occurrences are few and far between as it implements subtlety in the quiet moments and then heightens with the suspenseful scenes.
Neeson plays a Scudder that we can grow to love after we keep a safe distance. It’s hard connecting with him since not much is given on his back story, but at the end, we can be content with knowing this character is trying to better himself and the world around him. Astro also gives a notable performance as TJ in that he can play the foul-mouthed “thug” kid on the street when we first meet him, but then he, too, places his first steps on a path of personal recovery. In fact, it’s the relationship between these two (as actors and characters both) that we can see and benefit from.
This movie is rated R for “strong violence, disturbing images, language, and brief nudity,” so definitely utilize those filters if and when you choose to watch it.
But honestly, though: this story was a pleasure to experience on the big screen, so I highly suggest it to anyone who’s been longing for the modern cinema to revisit and even reboot the classic mystery thriller because A Walk Among the Tombstones satisfies that longing.