Based on the novel A Walk Among the Tombstones by Lawrence Block
This movie is based on an old Larry Block novel from the Matthew Scudder series. I’m not a huge Block fan but his books are solid and I do find the Scudder character appealing and likeable. So I was certain I would really enjoy the movie. Since I hadn’t read this particular book, I assumed that I wouldn’t have the usual hissy-fit about a poor adaptation that I have when I see movies based on books I know and love.
The story takes place after Scudder has left the police department and is working as a sort of free agent P.I. He’s sworn off alcohol and lives a quiet, albeit lonely life. He’s approached by the brother of a high level drug dealer whose wife was kidnapped and murdered.
Scudder goes to see the drug kingpin and they don’t hit it off, so Scudder passes on the job. Later on, the drug dealer shows up at his place and gives him the real story of what happened. And it’s grisly, cruel and inhuman what these men have done to this guy’s wife.
Scudder decides to take the case. But as he investigates, he discovers that there are other women who have suffered the same fate. All connected to drug dealers, all tortured, raped and killed in sadistic ways. Scudder now has a hard-on to find these degenerates and put an end to them.
For a little comic relief and human interest, we meet a young homeless boy named TJ, who Scudder befriends and helps. He’s a funny, smart alec kid with Sickle Cell Anemia with loads of attitude, some courage and a good heart. Probably the best scenes in the movie, in my opinion.
While I wouldn’t pan the movie – it’s definitely watchable – I don’t necessarily recommend it either. I don’t know if it was Liam Neeson’s portrayal of Scudder or the direction or both but the movie was too glum. And dark. And depressing. And I’ve never found Block’s novels to be that way so I’m assuming it’s the film makers that made that call. I realize it’s a murder mystery and not a musical comedy but the film lacked the humanity that Block writes so well. And for me, that has to be an element in a story like this – otherwise after you’re done watching it, you just want to blow your brains out.
Would I recommend it? Well, if it was a choice between watching this movie or watching reruns of Charlie’s Angels, I might opt for the movie. On the other hand, there are all those clothes and retro hairstyles. Maybe you’d enjoy the book more.