Cold Pursuit

Cold Pursuit
Cold Pursuit
Directed by Hans Petter Moland
Starring Liam Neeson, Tom Bateman, Laura Dern and Emmy Rossum
In UK Cinemas February 22nd, 2019

by Jenna Johnson

Cold Pursuit has recently been made notorious as the film Liam Neeson was ‘promoting’ when he made his controversial remarks about his own experience with revenge. It is the latest example in the trend of vengeance thrillers, many of which star Liam Neeson, but this is with a twist: he does not have a special set of skills. I am being ungenerous by saying that is the only twist, in fact, the entire film is an attempt to subvert and parody this genre, despite the questionable success of these intentions.

Directed by Hans Petter Moland, Cold Pursuit is a loose remake of his Norwegian film In Order of Disappearance. The film opens with Nels Coxman (Neeson) being honoured with a Citizen of the Year Award, for reasons for which will remain unknown, in a ski town outside of Denver where he drives a snow plow. The premise is bleaker than the child-in-need of rescuing trope, early on Coxman’s son is kidnapped and murdered and his cause of death is ruled as a heroin overdose. Coxman rejects the judgment that his son was a drug addict and so we have a fairly tenuous reason for Liam Neeson to wield a gun and cull the local criminal count.

The moment when Coxman and his wife (played by Laura Dern) identify the body of their son is one that summarizes the majority of the film, for some baffling reason this scene is supposed to be funny, but instead of dark humour there is only an awkward silence. The rest of the film continues with these lumbering moments of ‘black comedy’ that fall flat, including the early exit of Dern’s character, which again is completely unexplained, and who is wasted in this partially-formed role.

At the top of Coxman’s revenge list is Viking (Tom Bateman), a health-food obsessed drug lord who is in a custody battle over his son who he allows only to have kale smoothies. Apart from a fairly awful American accent, Bateman’s portrayal is one of the better elements of the film as the sinister, merciless and obsessive drug lord. The combination of the banal with the brutal in the murderous violence is both entertaining and grotesque. However, the melodrama borders on the absurd, and it’s unclear whether the movie was ill-conceived or edited so poorly to a state of unintelligibility.

The film descends further into the ridiculous with the wrongful recriminations upon a rival, Native-American gang, who Viking believes is behind the death of his associates, rather than a snow-plow driver whose goal is never really clear. At this point, the casual sexism and racism that has been sprinkled throughout, goes from the clumsily pantomime to crude and offensive.

The bleak, wintry setting and the farci¬cal brutality are strongly reminiscent of Fargo. But in Cold Pursuit the tenuous plot and under-developed characters miss the mark entirely. There is even a pair of small-town cops who get caught up in the murders even more suggestive of the Coen brothers, but the lazy sexism in this male and female duo yet again smacks of poor taste rather than parody. Whilst the beautiful, mountainous setting makes a slick backdrop to this movie, the overall outcome is at best senseless and bizarre and at worst tasteless and foolish.


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