Director: Hans Petter Moland
Writer: Frank Baldwin
Starring: Liam Neeson, Laura Dern, Tom Bateman
Genre: Drama/ Thriller
After his son is brutally murdered by a local drug cartel, mild mannered snowplough driver Nels Coxman (Neeson) vows to take revenge as he takes down the members one by one, with unexpected results.
Now, that synopsis may well sound like Cold Pursuit is just yet another Liam Neeson film, but there really is a lot more to what is quite a bizarre film that at times actually feels like it is almost an anti-Liam Neeson film that openly mocks the usual generic genre pieces that he turns up in these days. For example, normally Neeson’s characters have a convenient ‘set of skills’, but in the case of his character in Cold Pursuit he is armed with a snow plough, and when asked how he learnt how to effectively dispose of the body of one of the people he murdered he admits that he learnt it from a crime novel.
I have not seen Hans Petter Moland’s Norwegian original version of this film entitled In Order of Disappearance, but I have seen enough Scandinavian films to know that films from this part of the world do have a tendency to be made with a particularly dark sense of humour. Well, Cold Pursuit is certainly made with that same kind of subtle, dark humour that treats gruesome deaths with an almost unnervingly casual tone and is certainly a darkly amusing film, if a slightly bizarre one.
Cold Pursuit is not really a Liam Neeson film at all, he may be the main character shown on the posters and his name be in a font almost the same size as that of the film’s actual title, and that is of course a very effective marketing strategy, but that is where the similarities to the endless list of generic, meat-headed, cliché-ridden action films that Neeson has turned up in recently ends. This is certainly a good thing in my view, as a ‘Neeson film’ has become a bit of a cliché within itself, but Cold Pursuit is not your standard action / revenge thriller, and so some may not quite get on board with its quirky characters (even the supposedly most brutal gangsters are a bit odd) and jet-black humour that is at times unnervingly subtle.
The huge menagerie of characters that turn up throughout the narrative (including local gangsters, native Americans and two local police officers that have walked in straight from the set of Fargo) are all very strange and all actors deliver suitable performances that range from quietly menacing (Tom Jackson’s chief of the local native-American gangsters), scenery chewing (Tom Bateman’s local kingpin) or likeable and plucky (Emmy Rossum’s local well-intentioned cop). In fact, everyone seems to know exactly what kind of film they are in and play everything for laughs except Neeson himself, who at times doesn’t seem to quite know what film he is in, as he often delivers his usual gruff and intense speeches, but then also bemused looks that add to the subtle comedy. However, whether Neeson truly intended this is or not is impossible to say.
As the criss-crossing narrative gets increasingly complicated and the body count piles up (each death visually noted by the film), Neeson may look increasingly confused by what is going on, but thankfully everyone else keeps things suitably odd, meaning the story does admittedly remain unpredictable (apart from Neeson being indestructible – probably contractual) and therefore both interesting, and at times bizarrely hilarious. Cold Pursuit is certainly no masterpiece and will not live long in the memory, but is undoubtedly great fun at the time of viewing.
Though his performance may suggest that Liam Neeson is not actually aware of it, Cold Pursuit is very different to the usual Neeson nonsense, and it is one of the more bizarre revenge thrillers of recent times. Its forgettable, but certainly great fun, its just a shame no one actually told Liam!