21st Feb2019

‘Cold Pursuit’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Liam Neeson, Laura Dern, Micheál Richardson, Michael Eklund, Bradley Stryker, Wesley MacInnes, Tom Bateman, Domenick Lombardozzi, Nicholas Holmes | Written by Frank Baldwin | Directed by Hans Petter Moland

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Quiet family man and hard-working snowplow driver Nels is the lifeblood of a glitzy resort town in the Rocky Mountains because he is the one who keeps the winter roads clear. He and his wife live in a comfortable cabin away from the tourists. The town has just awarded him “Citizen of the Year.” But Nels has to leave his quiet mountain life when his son is murdered by a powerful drug lord. As a man who has nothing to lose he is stoked by a drive for vengeance. This unlikely hero uses his hunting skills and transforms from an ordinary man into a skilled killer as he sets out to dismantle the cartel. Nels’ actions ignite a turf war between a manically unpredictable gangster known as Viking and a rival gang boss. Justice is served in one final spectacular confrontation that will leave (almost) no one unscathed.

Cold Pursuit, directed by Hans Petter Moland, is the 2019 English language remake of the critically acclaimed 2014 black comedy, internationally known as In Order of Disappearance or domestically known as Kraftidioten – also directed by Hans Petter Moland. Cold Pursuit has had a rather tricky opening to deal with regarding recent controversial comments by lead actor Liam Neeson, that ultimately flatlined both the premier and box office opening weekend. It’s slightly unfortunate because the film puts forward an eye-opening and foreboding attempt at the dealing of grief and the torturous implications of the loss of loved ones, executed wonderfully in a darkly witty and expressive film.

Liam Neeson puts forward a melding of his Bryan Mills character from Taken, yet drastically compromised with stoicism and a more endearing note of emotional tempestuousness that we’ve seen recently in Steve McQueen’s Widows. It’s a role that Neeson has inadvertently or not avoided of late with hollow action thrillers and is a wonderful reminder of the talent he harbours in his ability and is conveyed through his character Nels Coxman terrifically throughout the first act, especially the first thirty minutes of the film. The character from the second act onwards isn’t necessarily fleshed out nor particularly explored to a satisfying degree.

You invest more so in his character for the tragedy that befalls him but undoubtedly it is the name of Liam Neeson himself you root for and not the character. The film does expertly implement a deeply endearing and engaging angle with his real-life son Micheál Richardson as his on-screen lineage. It resonates far deeply than any other element in the picture. Yet, slowly but surely the galvanising moments of Neeson of emotional layers are forgotten about, and the influx of mindless and murderous supporting characters take over most of the film with poor effect.

Laura Dern for one is a narrative tragedy of which Cold Pursuit sacrifices in order to perpetuate a more comedic turn. An element that just doesn’t have sufficient energy to explore the resounding nature of death but only to glorify murderous embellishment. Choosing rather to give the character a quick amicable exit rather than have a crucial intertextual conversation on grief and neglect. The conversation engaged is no doubt interesting on the struggle and differentiation of death. Some taken at times abruptly and others freely without hesitation or ounce of grief. However, it is more sub-textual underneath analysis more so than an obvious attribute the film proposes.

Cold Pursuit is in UK cinemas from tomorrow, Friday February 22nd.

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