22nd Feb2019

‘Cold Pursuit’ Review – Second Opinion

by Matthew Turner

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

cold-pursuit-poster

Liam Neeson stars as a grizzled snow plough driver on a bloody revenge spree in Hans Petter Moland’s English-language remake of his 2014 Norwegian thriller, In Order of Disappearance. As such, Moland sticks closely to the template of his original film (even the running times are identical), but some of the jet-black humour appears to have been lost in translation.

Neeson plays Nels Coxman (Nils Dickman in the original, so you can see what they did there), a humble snow plough driver in Kehoe, who’s recently been voted Citizen of the Year. When his adult son Kyle (Micheal Richardson, Neeson’s real-life son) is killed by a vicious drug gang, Nels embarks on a violent revenge quest, murdering his way up the Kehoe crime hierarchy until he has druglord Trevor “Viking” Calcote (Tom Bateman) in his sights. Meanwhile, Nels unwittingly ignites a turf war when Trevor wrongly assumes a rival gang is to blame for all his henchmen getting bumped off and kills Native American cartel chief White Bull’s (Tom Jackson) son in return.

Throughout the film, as each character is killed off, their death is marked by their name appearing on screen with a little cross, a visual gag that was right there in the title of the original film, but doesn’t work quite as well with the name changed to Cold Pursuit, even if the comedy pay-offs are still the same.

As that conceit suggests, this is very much a jet-black comedy, rather than an ultra-violent revenge thriller like Taken, even if Big Liam still does his fair share of straight-up murdering (shotgun to the face, that sort of thing). However, where the original film nailed its tone from the outset, Cold Pursuit frequently struggles to do the same, with the result that not all the jokes land and the level of violence often seems misjudged. Put simply, it’s just not as funny as the original film, so maybe the bleaker-than-bleak Norwegian humour just doesn’t translate the way it should.

Neeson is fine as Coxman (though you’ll have to work hard to push his recent troubles out of your head while he’s doing his violent revenge murdering) and there’s strong support from Bateman, while Emmy Rossum and John Doman are great value as Kehoe cops Kim Dash and John “Gip” Gipsky. There’s also a terrific child performance from Nicholas Holmes as Trevor’s sensitive, smart young son Ryan, who’s not only plunged into the middle of a custody battle, but also finds himself targeted by killers. However, the film loses points for its criminal waste of Laura Dern, who’s barely given anything to do as Nels’ wife and promptly disappears from the film after about ten minutes.

Moland packs the film with quirky, off-beat character moments that give the film an appealing Fargo-esque vibe, something that’s further accentuated by the snowy landscapes and gleaming cinematography from Philip Øgaard (who also shot the original film). On top of that, there are a number of surprisingly touching moments, all of which it would be churlish to reveal here.

However, though the film addresses a handful of weighty themes (father-son relationships, loyalty, grief, etc), it refuses to be drawn on the concept of revenge itself, which, given that it forms the heart of the film, seems like an odd omission.

In short, Cold Pursuit sits somewhere between Michael Haneke’s Funny Games and George Sluizer’s The Vanishing when it comes to European directors doing American remakes of their own films. It’s entirely watchable, but it’s not as good as the original, which, incidentally, is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime.

*** 3/5

Cold Pursuit is in UK cinemas now.

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