In 1991, Detective Matthew Scudder (Liam Neeson) is in a car with his partner. He then enters a bar and buys drinks. Two masked men come in and kill the bartender, and Matt kills one man with his gun. He pursues and kills the second man, as well as the third who acted as a getaway driver.
Eight years later, a junkie named Peter (Boyd Holbrook) approaches Matt, now retired, and asks him to help his brother Kenny Kristo (Dan Stevens), a drug trafficker whose wife was kidnapped and murdered. Kenny told Matt that after he delivered the ransom, the kidnappers directed him to a car containing his wife's dismembered body. Matt agrees to find the kidnappers.
At the library, Matt researches similar killings, and finds victims named Marie Gotteskind and Leila Anderssen. He meets a street kid named TJ (Brian "Astro" Bradley), who helps him with his search. Following an article, Matt goes to a cemetery and speaks with the groundskeeper, Jonas Loogan (Olafur Darri Olafsson), who is upset that Matt forces him to remember finding a dismembered Leila in the cemetery pond.
Matt talks to Leila's fiancé Reuben (Mark Consuelos), who claims to have witnessed two men drag her into a van driven by a third person. Out the window, Matt sees Jonas exiting an apartment building. In a tool shed belonging to Jonas on the building's roof, Matt finds photos of Reuben and Leila having sex. Jonas admits that he helped kidnap Leila. He conspired to take Leila away from Reuben, who is a drug dealer, and help her stop using drugs. Instead, the other two men tortured and killed Leila. Jonas gives Matt one name (Ray) and jumps off the roof to his death.
The two kidnappers, Ray and Albert (David Harbour and Adam David Thompson), scout the home of Yuri Landau (Sebastian Roche) another drug trafficker. After realizing Landau's wife is bedridden, they prepare to leave for a new target. However, they see his 14-year-old daughter Lucia (Danielle Rose Russell), and Ray decides to kidnap her.
Matt eventually learns that Marie was a DEA agent and realizes that the people who murdered her also got her files, which they have been using to choose their victims. Meanwhile, Matt grows closer to TJ, and encourages the boy to study to avoid a life of crime. During a conversation with TJ, Matt explains why he retired. During the shootout from the opening scene, one of his bullets killed a 7-year-old girl. He has been trying to quit drinking ever since.
Kenny brings Matt to Landau's home, where the kidnappers call and arrange a drop. Matt, Kenny, Landau, Peter and TJ (who earlier brought Matt his old gun) go to the cemetery. After a stand off, Lucia is returned to her father. When Albert realizes the ransom money is counterfeit, a shootout ensues. Peter is killed and Matt wounds Ray. Albert and Ray escape in their van.
After Albert and Ray arrive at their place, TJ sneaks out of their van, calls Matt and tells him the address. Albert garrottes Ray in the basement, and goes back upstairs to find Matt, Kenny and TJ. Matt overpowers and cuffs Albert. He leaves Albert for Kenny and calls a cab for TJ. While Kenny goes down the basement, Albert frees himself. Matt goes back inside the house and finds Kenny's corpse. Albert attacks Matt and after a brief fight, Matt kills him.
Matt returns home to find TJ sleeping on the couch. He spots a drawing that TJ made of himself as a superhero. He sits down and falls asleep.
A film adaptation of Lawrence Block’s novel had been in development for several years with a script from Scott Frank. In 2002, Harrison Ford was attached to star and D. J. Caruso to direct. In May 2012, Liam Neeson had reportedly signed on to play Matthew Scudder in the film, with Frank himself directing and production slated to begin February 2013.
Filming began on March 3, 2013 in New York City. Producers invited author Block to the set to watch filming. On the casting of Neeson, Block said, "Readers often ask who'd be my ideal Matt Scudder, and I usually change the subject. But now it's safe to tell you that, ever since I saw him in Michael Collins, Neeson has been up at the top of my personal Scudder wish list. I couldn't be happier about either the star or the writer/director, both of them genuine artists and brilliant professionals. My book's in good hands."
The film was completed on October 8, 2013 and classified by the MPAA as rated R for "strong violence, disturbing images, language, and brief nudity". On October 18, 2013, Block tweeted that he had seen the film and revealed producers were aiming for a September 2014 release. On January 30, 2014, it was announced the film would be released on September 19, 2014.
A Walk Among the Tombstones grossed $26 million in North America and $36.1 million in other territories for a total gross of $62.1 million, against its $28 million budget.
The film earned $428,000 from Thursday night from 1,918 theaters, and $4.7 million from 2,712 theaters on its opening day. It debuted at number two at the box office on its opening weekend earning $13.1 million behind The Maze Runner ($32.5 million).
A Walk Among the Tombstones received mixed to positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a rating of 65%, based on 144 reviews, with an average rating of 6.2/10. The site's consensus reads, "A Walk Among the Tombstones doesn't entirely transcend its genre clichés, but it does offer Liam Neeson one of his more compelling roles in recent memory, and that's often enough." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 57 out of 100, based on 36 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Richard Roeper gave the film a B+ rating, calling the film "a stylish and smart thriller". Manohla Dargis in The New York Times called it "one of those rare cinematic offerings: intelligent pulp" but also noted that the film "can be tough to watch, particularly its fleeting images of tortured women". In Variety, Andrew Barker found it a well-made thriller "with a good deal of panache and style".