Cold Pursuit sees Liam Neeson (Taken) again taking violent revenge against a gang of criminals who have attacked his family. However, in a slight twist to the usual formula that drove his previous film, Cold Pursuit is actually a remake. It’s based on a 2014 Norwegian thriller In Order of Disappearance, which featured Stellan Skarsgard in the role filled here by a taciturn and dour Neeson. Hans Petter Moland, who directed the original, takes the reins with this US remake and sticks closely to the story and structure; he joins that small band of foreign filmmakers, like Michael Haneke, who have helmed the US remake of their own films.
Neeson plays Nels Coxman, a snow-plough driver who keeps the roads of the alpine resort town of Kehoe open for the tourists and holiday makers. He’s just been named “Citizen of the Year” by the Chamber of Commerce. He is also a devoted family man who lives in a cozy log cabin outside of town with his wife Grace (Laura Dern) and his son Kyle (Neeson’s real life son Michael Richardson), who works as a baggage handler at the local airport.
But when Kyle is killed as the result of a drug deal gone wrong, Nels sets out on a mission of revenge seeking revenge on the gang that killed him. He begins to work his way up the chain of command of the gang headed by Trevor Calcote (Tom Bateman), a volatile and unpredictable millionaire nightclub owner. But Nels also inadvertently triggers a turf war between Calcote’s gang and a rival cartel of Native American drug dealers led by White Bull (Tom Jackson), an urbane antiquities dealer. The body count rises.
First-time writer Frank Baldwin provides the script. He remains reasonably faithful to the original script by Kim Fupz Aakeson, although Baldwin has injected a strong dose of black humour into the material that softens some of the more brutal violence. He has also included a scene in which White Bull wanders through a luxurious resort hotel’s gift shop and is bemused to find native American artefacts which, according to the tags, are made in China. This brief throw away scene is meant to offer some sort of comment on the plight of native Americans in today’s world. In keeping with the original, Moland also uses the device of accompanying each grisly death with an onscreen homage, using their name and their gangland nickname.
This is more of an ensemble piece than most of Neeson’s more recent action outings though. The film is busy with several subplots – one follows Calcote’s volatile relationship with his grasping ex-wife Aya (Julia Jones), and the town’s police officers – the rookie Dash (Emmy Rossum) and John Gipsky (John Doman), the veteran chief of police – as they try to make sense of the bodies piling up in their normally quite and peaceful town.
The film has been superbly shot by Philip Osgaard, who shot the Norwegian original. He captures some great vistas of the snow covered landscape and gives the film its chilly feel. Alberta effectively doubles for the US Rockies here. There’s also some striking production design from Jorgen Stangbye Larsen, who also worked on the original.
Neeson is now comfortable in his role as the action hero and delivers a little variation on his familiar role, but Coxman is nonetheless the quintessential character of this stage of his career. Bateman relishes his villainous role here, while Jackson brings a quiet dignity to his role. But most of the characters here lack any real depth and serve mainly as cannon fodder.
While Cold Pursuit may not be as relentless or as kinetically paced as some of Neeson’s other recent action films, it is still a perversely enjoyable film worth checking out.
Director: Hans Petter Moland
Cast: Liam Neeson, Tom Bateman, Emmy Rossum
Release Date: 7 February 2019
Rating: MA 15+
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Greg King has had a life long love of films. He has been reviewing popular films for over 15 years. Since 1994, he has been the film reviewer for BEAT magazine. His reviews have also appeared in the Herald Sun newspaper, S-Press, Stage Whispers, and a number of other magazines, newspapers and web sites. Greg contributes to The Blurb on film