Movie Review: Cold Pursuit will surprise you

Cold Pursuit
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Cold Pursuit is likely not the movie that you’re expecting it to be. The trailers, posters and even the first fifteen or so minutes, have it lined up to be the kind of film that we’ve come to expect from Liam Neeson.

Neeson plays Nelson Coxman, a snowplow driver living in a Rocky Mountain resort town. His son is unceremoniously murdered by a drug cartel (led by Tom Bateman playing a wonderfully strange villain named Viking) prompting Coxman to take them down one by one.

It is familiar territory for both Neeson and the audience. This movie is a parental revenge thriller along the lines of the Taken franchise.  A franchise and a genre affectionately referred to as “dadsploitation”.

Photo: Summit Entertainment

With the first kill, the film becomes something almost completely different.

Neeson isn’t playing a man with a particular set of skills. His character is ordinary.  Nelson Coxman is not wellequipped. He successfully goes up against a drug cartel, because no one he meets expects it.

The violence  is quiet, messy and surprisingly darkly funny. In fact, the film could be best described as a black comedy rather than the action movie. This isn’t a bad thing. Once the initial shift settles in, the audience adjusts.  The film’s dark humour and strange, sprawling story is immensely enjoyable.

Coxman’s revenge is so unexpected.  The drug cartel pins the revenge on a rival Native American drug cartel. This highlights a large cast of unique and memorable characters that he movie takes the time to develop with care and interest.

Having narratives such as Viking’s henchmen working behind his back to raise his son in a more emotionally supportive way or the Native cartel behaving like a close-knit family means that this film has no one-dimensional “bad guys” for Coxman to take out. All of the violence that he brings with him carries incredible weight.

Cold Pursuit

Photo: Summit Entertainment

The film has a number of shortcomings. It is a remake of a previous 2014 Norwegian film titled In Order of Disappearance.

American remakes of foreign films aren’t uncommon, but what makes this one special is Hans Petter Moland. He directed both versions. With his direction, he prevents the usual dilution of meaning that so often comes with American remakes. Still, you can’t help feeling that the story and sense of humour don’t translate to an American setting or studio.

The film boggs down repeatedly. It’s jarring editing is noticeably sloppy.  A few internal narrative stories either end up leading nowhere or slip up.

Cold Pursuit is an incredibly surprising and unique story worth watching. Although I can’t help but eye the original and wonder if a more complete version is waiting.

Cold Pursuit

3 out of 4 stars

R, 1hr 58min, Action Drama Thriller

Directed by Hans Petter Moland

Starring Liam Neeson, Laura Dern, Tom Bateman, Tom Jackson

Now playing at Cineplex Winston Churchill, Cineplex Oakville & VIP, and Film.ca

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