Based on Lawrence Block’s novel of the same name and adapted for the screen by Scott Frank (Minority Report) A Walk Among the Tombstones follows the exploits of a former cop, and recovering alcoholic, turned unlicensed PI Matt Scudder (Liam Neeson). Used to operating just outside the law, Scudder is hired by wealthy drug trafficker Kenny Kristo (Dan Stevens) to find the men who kidnapped, tortured, and killed his wife despite the fact that he paid the ransom. As he gets deeper into the case, Scudder discovers that these men have committed this type of crime before, and will do so again.
Despite what some of Liam Neeson’s recent work has suggested, Matt Scudder isn’t a cold-blooded killer. He actually prefers sleuthing to violence. Scudder isn’t a guy you want to mess with, and when push comes to shove, he will fight, but it’s not his first line of offense. Set in 1999, the film has a gritty 1970’s crime noir look and feel. While the murders of the women take place off screen, the results—one victim is cut up, put into garbage bags and tossed into a cemetery pond—underscore the shocking violence of the crimes. Director Scott Frank makes you feel the impact of the murders without having to be particularly graphic on screen.
Scudder is a man who has been beaten down by life, yet still has a strong sense of self. It’s really the perfect role for Neeson. Scudder is a commanding presence, dominating every scene. Neeson’s craggily handsome features are perfect; the kind of guy who by turns can be friendly, but nasty when necessary. A more thoughtful, slightly wiser version of the aging tough guy he’s made his own in the last decade, Neeson’s detective is a man who struggles with regret.
The supporting cast is a strong one. Dan Stevens continues to build on his impressive performance in The Guest as Kenny, the sympathetic, grief-stricken career criminal, Boyd Holbrook is convincing as Kenny’s addicted, and jittery brother. David Harbour and Adam David Thompson are perfect as the serial killers. The chatterbox Harbour makes the skin crawl, while Thompson is quietly terrifying. Also of note is the homeless orphan TJ (Brian “Astro” Bradley”) Scudder takes under his wing to help with research when the library microfiche proves beyond him. Neeson and Bradley have an easy rapport; it would be nice to see their characters relationship evolve in further installments.
While A Walk Among the Tombstones doesn’t break any new ground in the thriller genre, an engaging story and strong cast make this one well worth recommending.
Presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio, Universal has provided an excellent 1080p transfer. While the overall look of the film is rather gloomy, shadow detail is excellent. Skin tones look natural, and colors are well saturated. Textures are abundant throughout, and there are no digital compression issues, or artifacts to mention.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix fits the material well, providing a solid ambient surround experience. Dialogue is clear and concise, never getting drowned out by ambient effects. Deep bass impact is apparent is several scenes, and effects are panned throughout the soundstage fairly well.
English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- A Look Behind the Tombstones (HD, 12:08) A standard EPK featuring interviews with the filmmakers and cast, along with a look at activity on the set.
- Matt Scudder: Private Eye (HD, 6:27) Author Lawrence Block and director Scott Frank discuss the creation of Matt Scudder, and the process of bringing him to the screen.
- DVD copy of the film.
- UltraViolet copy of the film.
- iTunes digital copy.
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