Cold Pursuit Review
Over the years we’ve seen Liam Neeson save the day on a train as a Commuter. He’s gone Non-Stop on a plane. Sailed off to war on a Battleship, and if you need someone to smack a wolf in the face, he’s your guy. Now he’s using a very particular set of skills to seek out bloody revenge in a snowplough (the less said about coshes the better), in a remake of 2014’s In Order of Disappearance.
Director Hans Petter Moland directed the original starring Stellan Skarsgard and also landed the job for this English-language version. And it comes as no surprise that Cold Pursuit falls victim to exactly the same problems that plagued the Norwegian crime thriller/black comedy. To make matters worse, it’s almost a shot-for-shot remake, offering next to no deviation or difference compared to Moland’s first effort. Even the runtime is exactly the same, so you can only wonder how much thought went into this pointless exercise.
Ok, we know why Hollywood have lazily rehashed a popular European language film, but for anyone who has seen the original there are slim pickings when it comes to finding anything new. Set in Colorado, Neeson stars as Nels Coxman (called Nils Dickman in the original – geddit?), a family man married to Grace (Laura Dern in a blink-and-you'll-miss-her role) who has just been crowned Citizen of The Year in a fictional ski town called Kehoe. Nels is a blue collar worker who spends his working day clearing the roads of snow with his trusty plough.
Their family life is torn to pieces when his son Kyle is found dead from a heroin overdose. Nels refuses to believe he was a drug addict and soon discovers how he was really killed. Even though his marriage is falling to pieces in the aftermath of Kyle's death, he sets out to avenge his son. That brings him into the path of the obnoxiously self-centred local drug lord Viking (Tom Bateman) and his bunch of oddly named goons. As Nels starts to off them one-by-one, Viking wrongly assumes the threat is coming from White Bull (Tom Jackson) and his crew, starting a bloody gang war in the process.
In many ways both films draw heavily on films like Fargo and In Bruges, bringing together a rag-tag collection of odd-ball characters with a propensity for violence. Some of the jokes land, but most of them barely even count as humour, and Frank Baldwin’s script scrambles to embellish each member of the expansive cast with their own individual quirks. Yet, even with so many faces popping up no-one is able to stand out. Random scenes appear that do nothing to serve the plot or characters, and there is at least 15-20 minutes that just shouldn’t be there at all.
You expect Nels’ story to remain the focus, then midway through it takes a strange diversion to place White Bull at the centre. Moland complicates matters further by suggesting White Bull is quietly boiling with rage about his ancestors land being turned into a ski resort. It comes out of nowhere, and given the film's tone and mood makes no sense, only adding to the director's odd use of non-white characters. Nels’ Asian sister-in-law (Elizabeth Thai) is given the Dragon Lady role, while Viking picks up on a black assassin's (Arnold Pinnock) use of slang. It perhaps seems more lazy than racist, but when you glance towards the recent appearance of the elephant in the room (Neeson's careless comments), it certainly doesn’t help.
There’s a difficult tone to balance when trying to use humour in as many straight-faced situations as Cold Pursuit attempts to. It’s something Moland wasn’t able to do in the original and has made little effort to change the formula this time round. Too much of it feels contrived and like a second-rate Coen Brothers or Martin McDonagh film. Maybe Moland is just going for shock value, and if so, even that fails to register a meaningful blow. The more people that die, the less interesting and funny it becomes, until it becomes a task just to see it through to the end.
Cold Pursuit opens nationwide in UK cinemas on February 22nd.