Written and directed by Scott Frank, the film follows retired police detective Matthew Scudder (Liam Neeson), who now works as an unlicensed private detective. He is hired by Kenny Kristo (Dan Stevens) to find the men who kidnapped and murdered his wife (Razane Jammal). Scudder investigates and stumbles into a dark underbelly of society and a team of serial killers who are out looking for their next victim. Along the way, we learn about why Scudder really left the police department and he befriends a homeless teen, TJ (Brian “Astro” Bradley), who is keen on becoming a detective and is an aspiring artist.
The film is fairly solid and less of a whodunit than a whydunit. The script is really a mash-up of several different Scudder novels by Block, introducing elements from all of them to turn Scudder into a movie franchise lead. I would definitely like to see another film with Neeson as the character—as long as he sorts out his dodgy accent—but I wish the initial entry was a little stronger. I liked a lot of the detective story standbys like the sidekick and Scudder actually deducing some things. It also has some strong moments of tension, but many of the thriller elements were a little predictable. Unfortunately, quite a few plot points were blown by the trailer, which was annoying, especially when one could tell that the movie was building to certain moments just to have the audience think, Oh, I saw that in the trailer. The film I was most reminded of was Jack Reacher, another solid franchise starter starring Tom Cruise. I think I was expecting more Silence of the Lambs and less hard-boiled detective fiction.
The cast does a decent job here, but as I mentioned, Neeson’s accent is all over the place. Astro actually does well here. His performance was much easier than in Earth to Echo. Stevens on the other hand seemed to think he was auditioning for the role of Batman with his constantly raspy voice.
Overall, A Walk Among the Tombstones isn’t great, but it isn’t terrible either. It’s a decent mystery/thriller that promises further installments that will hopefully increase in quality.