Movie Review: Liam Neeson braces for ‘Cold Pursuit’

Movie Review: Liam Neeson braces for ‘Cold Pursuit’

When the son of rural Colorado snow plow driver Nels Coxman (Liam Neeson) is murdered by dope-dealing thugs, dad springs into action to exact some bloody revenge in the crime drama Cold Pursuit, now playing in Prague cinemas.

But what might sound like the setup for another mid-winter Neeson action vehicle instead take a turn for the offbeat: as the bodies start to pile up, Cold Pursuit lurches into the Coen Brothers realm of dark, frosty comedy a la Fargo, and revenge movie thrills take an aside to quirky character beats and unconventional story threads.

Those expecting the typically gruff Neeson slam-bang stuff are likely to leave Cold Pursuit unfulfilled, but go along for the eccentric ride and you’ll be pleasantly surprised: this might be an even better film that the one it’s based on, the 2014 Norwegian thriller In Order of Disappearance.

Cold Pursuit isn’t just another Hollywood remake: it’s a scene-for-scene, almost shot-for-shot affair that recycles not only story but also camera setups and line delivery. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: director Hans Petter Moland, who also made the previous film, has made great use of a higher budget and a terrific cast of character actors to polish up and improve upon his previous film.

Neeson replaces Stellan Skarsgård as the revenge-driven plow driver, and Denver replaces Oslo as the big-city home of Viking (Tom Bateman), the well-protected crime boss responsible for the murder of Coxman’s son.

He’s working up a chain of dealers to avenge his son’s murder, and inadvertently starts a turf war in the process. But Cold Pursuit cannily shifts the focus off the typical revenge movie plot - Coxman’s actions bring him little joy, and the audience few thrills - by shining a brighter light on a host of idiosyncratic supporting characters who have their own low-key narratives.

Those include Laura Dern as Coxman’s wife and William Forsythe as his one-time hoodlum brother, Domenick Lombardozzi, Gus Halper, Benjamin Hollingsworth and David O’Hara as Viking’s thugs, Tom Jackson and Raoul Trujillo as members of the Native American crime syndicate, and John Doman and Emmy Rossum as the pair of small-town Colorado cops trying to sort out what’s going on.

And then there’s Viking, a typically sleazy Wall Street drug boss bolstered by a magnetically off-kilter performance by Bateman, who previously played Bouc in the recent Murder on the Orient Express. Here, he seems to be auditioning to play the next re-incarnation of The Joker, stealing every scene he’s in and walking away with the movie.

Cold Pursuit, like its predecessor, might be a little too offbeat and unconventional to work in traditional dramatic terms, and it’s never quite as biting a satire as one might want it to be. But this is a nice reprieve from the usual glum mid-winter Neeson histrionics, and a successfully transplanted Scandinavian noir-comedy that retains the spirit of the original film and builds upon it.

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