Filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra has directed Liam Neeson twice before during the actor’s post-Taken career. First in the second-rate Unknown and then in the second-rate Non-Stop, which at least had a condensed setting at 30,000 feet to keep things interesting. After those two substandard thrillers, Neeson came back strong in the bleak urban noir A Walk Among the Tombstones, before collecting another paycheck for Taken 3. For his third film with Neeson, Run All Night, Collet-Serra comes very close to making a cohesive, gritty crime drama, but fumbles by making some wildly bad choices.
This Friday, the big screen adaptation of Lawrence Block’s A Walk Among the Tombstones hits theaters. Liam Neeson, riding high on his action renaissance sparked by Taken, plays Block’s iconic private eye and recovering alcoholic Matthew Scudder. It’s a damn good book and from what I’ve heard, Scott Frank’s film for the most part stays faithful and captures the grittiness and black soul of Block’s vision.
This isn’t the first time a Scudder novel has made its way to film. Back in the summer of ’86, Jeff Bridges first played him in Hal Ashby’s 8 Million Ways to Die. The adaptation had some truly solid writers behind it: Oliver Stone, David Lee Henry (Road House), and Robert Towne (Chinatown). This turned out to be the final film for Ashby, who was one of the most captivating filmmakers of the ‘70s. He was a socially conscious director whose output represents some of the most heartfelt human dramas of the era (Harold & Maude, The Last Detail, Being There).