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Cold Pursuit – Movie Review

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Cold Pursuit – Movie Review

Rating: C (Average)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Elevation Pictures

Over the past decade, Liam Neeson has found himself gravitating towards action films with simple premises as he often enters into fisticuffs on an airplane, a train, the wilderness and other locations. Cold Pursuit seems like another basic revenge thriller for Neeson as he plays a snow plow driver trying to avenge the death of his son. However, the film eventually throws in a bunch of other subplots that don’t match whatsoever. Cold Pursuit feels like four different films stitched together and Neeson even disappears for large chunks of the runtime. It’s an odd film that tries to also inject some dark Coen-esque humour in the proceedings, but doesn’t quite come together in a satisfying way.

The plot seems simple enough in the beginning and director Hans Petter Moland does a decent job of introducing the relationship between Neeson’s Nelson Coxman, his son and his wife. Moland brings some cinematic flourishes early on, playing with camera angles in interesting ways. The sight of the plow working through the Colorado snow allows director of photography Philip Ogaard to pick up some impressive shots. There are the expected scenes of Coxman enacting his revenge and killing one person after another, which are handled in a shocking and over-the-top manner. It does feel like Cold Pursuit will also show the effect this death has on his marriage, but his wife is immediately written out of the movie. One wonders why they even bothered to hire Laura Dern, if she was going to be wasted in such a thankless role.

Where Cold Pursuit slowly starts to go off the rails is when the other storylines are introduced. There’s a subplot involving a mob boss and those scenes seem like you’ve just switched the channel in the middle of the Liam Neeson revenge movie you were watching. Tom Bateman especially chews the scenery and when these scenes do eventually connect, they don’t naturally gel at all. Eventually, the movie throws in a local Indigenous mob family and that, too, feels out of left field. Plus, there are the policemen trying to figure out the recent killings and their section feels like an outtake from Fargo.

The movie piles on so many characters, which is mostly done as a way to up the body count. It results in the film having rather sluggish pacing and a potential ninety minute action movie is thus unnecessarily stretched out to two hours. Cold Pursuit attempts to splice in some humour, but it rarely lands. As a remake of Moland’s original Norwegian film In Order of Disappearance, one wonders if maybe something was lost in translation when bringing that dark Scandinavian sense of humour to English-speaking shores. It just becomes too much to handle and when Neeson is off-screen, it’s mostly a patient wait to see when he will pop back in again.

Cold Pursuit could have been a lean, mean action thriller and there are glimmers of that throughout the film. However, the audience is also required to sit through meandering subplots that don’t fit tonally with the more somber moments from Neeson. The villain is a notably distracting point and proves more irritating than intimidating. There is a bit of an admiration for the film’s grand aspirations and wanting to rise above its genre, but the screenplay isn’t sharp enough and the humour isn’t successful enough to earn that.

Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison