Title: A Walk Among the Tombstones

Director: Scott Frank

Starring: Liam Neeson, Boyd Holbrook, Dan Stevens, David Harbour, Adam David Thompson, Brian “Astro” Bradley, Sebastian Roché and Mark Consuelos

Powerfully adapting the intriguing personalities of a well-regarded book series’ diverse characters, as well as the gripping nature of the intimately documented crimes that harrowingly affect them all, into an equally riveting film, can be a difficult challenge. But experienced action screenwriter-director Scott Frank effortlessly did just that when he adapted novelist Lawrence Block’s ‘A Walk Among the Tombstones,’ the tenth book in his best-selling series about private detective Matthew Scudder. Much like the book series it’s based on, the filmmaker’s intriguing suspense thriller not only captivatingly chronicled Matt’s tortured soul and need to find redemption for his past actions, but also the pressure he begins feeling for solving his latest distressing case.

‘A Walk Among the Tombstones’ follows Matt Scudder (Liam Neeson), an ex-NYPD police officer who is now working as an unlicensed private investigator. While he regularly operates outside of the law, he reluctantly agrees to help bend his normal antics for his latest case. He agrees to assist a recovering drug addict he knows, Peter Kristo (Boyd Holbrook), help his brother, heroin trafficker Kenny Kirsto (Dan Stevens). Kenny hires the investigator to track the men who kidnapped, and then brutally murdered, his wife. During the investigation, the PI discovers that this isn’t the first time the assailants have committed such a crime, and it won’t be their last.

During his investigation, Matt discovers that the criminals are Ray (David Harbour) and Albert (Adam David Thompson). The two sadistic serial killers have the ability to fade into the shadows, which allows them to stay one ahead of the police. In an effort to track down the murderers, Matt enlists the help of a homeless teen, TJ (Brian “Astro” Bradley), who’s more comfortable with the changing technology in the months of the Y2K hype in the late 1990s. The investigator is further put to the test of stopping Ray and Albert when one of Kenny’s associates, Russian drug dealer Yuri Landau (Sebastian Roche), discovers his teenage daughter, Lucia (Danielle Rose Russell), is the killers’ latest target. With TJ, Kenny and Peter’s help, Matt races to track down and stop the deviants throughout the streets of New York City before they harm Lucia, and have the chance to kill again.

Neeson, who thrives on perfecting the loneliness of self-exiled loners who best operate by themselves in action-driven crime thrillers, was the perfect choice to portray the tortured private investigator. The actor effortlessly focused on the internal struggles and extreme pressures the ex-cop is still contending with after the traumatic incident that drove him from the police force. While Matt’s also still contending with his continued search for redemption for his past transgressions and his eight-year sobriety, Neeson powerfully showcased how he still has a strong grip on his morals and dignity. The troubled protagonist willingly bends the law and his ethics, if it means helping other people’s pain, which is a valuable characteristic the Academy Award-nominated actor naturally infuses into many of his action heroes.

The struggles Matt continuously faced, not only within himself as he strived to overcome his moral questioning of whether he should help drug dealers seek their revenge and protect them and their families, but also as he brazenly hunts down the killers, were powerfully emphasized by the film’s production design. Skilled production designer David Brisbin, who previously worked on such hit horror films as ‘Sinister’ and ‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose,’ effortlessly matched Frank’s vision of only showcasing a limited color palette in the story’s settings. Since the private investigator, as well as the drug dealers and killers he comes into contact with throughout ‘A Walk Among the Tombstones,’ regularly repress their emotions, Brisbin smartly chose dramatic architecture for each scene. From Brooklyn’s Green-wood Cemetery, where a key shoot-out Matt engages in, to the disarrayed house and basement where Ray and Albert hold their victims, to the pristine townhouse in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, where Kenny holds vivid memories of his recently deceased wife, the production designer effortlessly showcased the emotional implications of each location.

Costume designer Betsy Heimann also masterfully highlighted the powerful tone of the characters’ struggles and personality traits throughout the course of the action film. She creatively crafted a timeless outfit that Matt felt comfortable working and living in, that also reflected the look of the late 1990s. Since the private detective didn’t truly concern himself with the latest fashion, and cared more about fulfilling his job duties than how he looked, Heimann created a dark, well worn-in corduroy coat that protected him from the cold, and also helped blend him into his surroundings.

Meanwhile, the drug dealers in the film, including Kenny and Yuri, sported a more natural and fitting European style, which emphasized their roles in their illegal community, but also allowed them to fit into society as regular, working citizens. Mixing necklaces, rings and other jewelry to prove the wealth they’re beginning to accumulate, which was mixed with leather to prove their tough exteriors, the drug traffickers’ outfits starkly contrasted with Matt’s clothing, proving how differently they viewed the world and lived their lives.

‘A Walk Among the Tombstones’ is the latest grippingly powerful crime thriller from Neeson. Frank’s smart adaptation of Block’s novel once again allowed the actor to not only prove his immense value in the film’s intense action sequences, but also showcase his clear understanding of his troubled protagonist’s psychology and emotions. Combined with Brisbin’s captivating production designs in locations that powerfully emphasized the story’s emotional tone, as well as Heimann’s masterfully created costumes that passionately reflected the characters’ motivations, the crime mystery movie is a powerful emotional and visual representation of the story’s diverse characters.

Technical: A-

Acting: B+

Story: B

Overall: B+

Written by: Karen Benardello

A Walk Among the Tombstones Movie Review

By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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