I expected a little more from writer/director Scott Frank. Given that this was a story based on one of many books from writer Lawrence Block, I harbor a bit of confusion as to the choice of material that was mined to make a motion picture out of, despite another good performance from the domineering presence of Liam Neeson as private detective Matthew Cudder.
The main problem I had with this movie was character motivation. After a pivotal scene where Neeson has a phone confrontation with a bad guy, he gives the quintessential "tough guy" speech and warns that the man had better comply with his demands or he will have to "look over his shoulder for the rest of [his] life." Immediately I thought back along the story line of the film, and there was absolutely no reason for him to even believe his own threat, let alone our reason to believe he has any investment in the situation that is going on.
Never once does the film acknowledge anything from Neeson's past of significance that actually relates to his reason for being so dedicated to this one case. Sure, an earlier scene shows a mishap he committed while in the line of duty years before, but the circumstances have no relation to the events taking place during the course of the movie. On paper it would make sense (as would the context in novel form, in which fans of the book would argue that I'm incorrect in my assessment), but given the fact that I never read the book and am basing my conclusion on what was presented on film, Neeson's character isn't given the depth needed for us to feel his pain and internal dilemma.
The movie opens with a bang and promising gun battle, but the story bogs down with a few uninteresting character interactions, and a seemingly out-of-place sidekick in a homeless kid. A lot of the film feels as though it was condensed from a much larger medium that had a plethora of depth and character discovery, but fell victim in the translation from page to digital frame.
The movie is shot pretty well in the dark, foreboding drab of New York City (circa 1999), but after having just recently watched more powerful films of similar mood and theme (last year's Prisoners, being one), I felt A Walk Among the Tombstone sold itself a bit short in the visual medium.
On another note, I can do without another detective/P.I./cop/ex-cop/former law enforcement officer story where the main character is an alcoholic (or recovering alcoholic). Making characters have this weakness has become a weakness in device; a cliche of sorts that has lately separated me from any connection I may have had to the main character. Many writers give their characters these weaknesses in hopes of making them feel "down to earth" for an average audience member (or reader, for that matter) to understand their pains and interpersonal turmoils - essentially making a fictional character feel "more realistic". Funny, given that I felt more connection and understanding from Marvel's depiction of Steve Rogers/Captain America than I did with Liam Neeson's Matthew Cudder, which is a crime given that Neeson does his best to give one of his naturally-strong, a-typical "tough guy" performances.