At a time when odd gimmicks with one sentence premises roam free at the theaters, I was still kinda shocked when Universal Pictures decided to release a gritty cop drama about Liam Neeson trying to figure out which frozen pizza he’d like eat for dinner. It’s a bold move, and frankly, it paid off with some bold cinema. Maybe not as bold as a Tombstone Double Top 4 Meat Pizza, but pretty bold nonetheless.
A Walk Among the Tombstones begins at a Kroger in 1987; cops didn’t have to pay for their snacks, and Detective Matt Scudder (Neeson) is on his day off. A couple of guys came in to rob the place. Scudder chased them into the frozen food section, shot two dead. Hit the third one in the leg. But, you see, one bullet took a bad hop. It hit the glass where the frozen pizza is refrigerated. 47 pizzas had to be thrown away that day. Fast forward to 1999. Scudder, now a private detective, does favors for people. In return, they give him gifts. Mostly knick-knacks and stuffed animals. [toned-down, indie version of “Black Hole Sun” starts playing ominously from the sky] He gets a job to find the missing wife of a drug dealer. He thinks that it is linked to several other missing women cases. He also thinks that maybe he’d like chicken wings for dinner, but they never turn out as good as he’d like them to when he buys them from the grocery store. So he instead pops a Tombstone Light Veggie pizza into his oven, but adds some pepperoni to it anyway. He’s not a vegetarian, but he does like the wide array of ingredients on the Veggie pizza that they don’t equally include on the Tombstone Supreme pizzas. He would never lay a hand on a straight up Veggie pizza. But it’s the Tombstone Garlic Dipping Bites Pizza that he should be scared of. He was obsessed. It’s not pizza. “How can I find more of these?” He asks the Kroger stock boy. “They’ve been discontinued, Detective Scudder.” [stock boy jumps off roof] [Scudder is now on the phone with a Tombstone Pizza sales representative, complaining about the discontinuation of his favorite pizza novelty] “You’re scared of all the wrong things, Detective Scudder. Once the pizzas are in the van, they’re just ingredients.” [punches mirror] [starts several gunfights] [looks in frozen pizza aisle, sees a new Tombstone product: Brick Oven Mexican Style Pizza] The replacement stock boy asks, “Have you ever dealt with pizza like this?” “…Not like this…” [Scudder has a quiet meal eating this new pizza in the dark while watching Jeopardy] [he gets a few questions right in some of the pop culture categories, but is mostly way off] [Black Hole Sun gets even louder] A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES.
But in all seriousness, one of my favorite aspects of this film was the contrast of the serial killers’ dumb whimsy-speak vs Liam Neeson’s straight forward, no-nonsense grasp of the situation. Nothing makes me hate a movie serial killer more (outside of the fact they kill people) then when they start talking in over-confident, intentionally creepy, weird dialogue. My favorite exchange in the entire film was when Liam Neeson is talking on the phone with the killers, trying to hammer out a kidnap deal, and the killer goes “I’ll show up with the girl, and I’ll have a knife to her throat, for my protection.” Neeson – “That’s fine.” Killer – “It will be a pristine blade, pressed just slightly below her supple windpipe.” -Neeson – “(sighs) Whatever. You’re going to meet us at 10:30?” It’s like he’s dealt with morons like this his whole career. It was great. Later in the movie, when he has a gun pointed at his head, the killer says “Why aren’t you scared?” And he just shrugs it off, “Eh, shoot me if you want. I don’t care.” I don’t know about you guys, but I kind of really want to see more of Detective Who Gives a Shit. He gets the job done. The worst thing he did in the whole movie was the regrettable choice to add some pineapple chunks to his Tombstone Half & Half frozen pizza with sausage and pepperoni. Pineapple won’t taste good on that. Go back to California Pizza Kitchen!
It’s an alright movie overall, I guess. The cinematography is great at times, and there’s several well-executed sequences of tension. I don’t know if I want to call the whole movie entertaining so much as it just manages to hold your attention, if that makes sense. The kind of movie you probably won’t regret watching if you do so, but if you never saw it you’re not really missing much, either. Definitely not a movie anyone is watching on repeat a bunch of times. I’d say it’s not quite as good as A Walk Among the Momma Cozzi’s, but it’s way better than A Walk Among the DiGiornos.
7.5 out of 10