Liam Neeson has a very particular set of skills, skills he has acquired over a very long career. Skills that make him a nightmare for people like you. Skills that involve a snowplow.
I knew the minute I heard the phrase “Liam Neeson chases guys with a snowplow”, I NEEDED to see the movie Cold Pursuit. Shut up and take my money now. There was something so hilarious about that mental image. It hearkened back to the days when I saw Daddy’s Home 2 (I like Will Ferrell, don’t judge me) and when Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg are piled into the movie theatre toward the end of the movie with their families and they’re all watching the fictitious Missile Tow, starring Liam Neeson.
Cold Pursuit opens in the cold, snowy little resort town of Keoh, Colorado, where Liam Neeson’s character Nels Coxman lives quietly with his wife Grace (Laura Dern, Blue Velvet, The Last Jedi) and his son Kyle (Michael Richardson, Vox Lux). His son Kyle is played by Neeson’s real-life son. Coxman makes a living driving a snowplow into the wee hours of the morning through treacherous mountain passes.
One night, his son goes to work at his job as a baggage handler at the airport. He gets kidnapped by a drug cartel from Denver, who overdose him with heroin and dump him in Denver. The police write it off as an accidental overdose on Kyle’s part. Left to pick up the pieces, Coxman goes looking for answers. He stumbles upon the drug cartel who took his son and discovers the leader. The leader being a psycho, frothing at the mouth over all of his lackeys’ missteps, as much as he is over following a vegan lifestyle.
If this premise seems familiar, it is. Directed by Hans Petter Moland, and written by screenwriter Frank Baldwin, Moland adapted his own 2014 Norwegian film, In Order Of Disappearance (starring Stellan Skarsgaard). Liam Neeson has lately favored roles where he delivers vigilante justice as a grieving father when law enforcement fails him. Neeson plays to type here, but with comic results. Coxman, not a particularly brilliant or learned man, who actually comes off a bit dimwitted, has a particularly good bit of luck coming to him, though. And he proceeds to fly through the entire film with a horseshoe up his ass.
At the end of the day, the remake Cold Pursuit manages to pull off a quirky, fun little movie when you least expect it. At turns funny, weird, violent, and action-packed, it’s sprinkled with great dry humor throughout. Lots of great turnouts from a cast of great Hollywood actors, like new up-and-comer Tom Bateman (B&B, Murder On The Orient Express) as the drug lord “Viking”. A great performance by an old veteran actor, William Forsythe (Halloween, Check Point) who plays Coxman’s brother, Brock “Wingman” Coxman. Or, like Emmy Rossum (Phantom Of The Opera) as the bored, small-town cop Kim Dash, who really shines. And a bunch of great First Nations actors, namely Raoul Trujillo (Sicario) and Saskatchewan boy Tom Jackson (Pride Of Lions, Skinwalkers), as well.
With the final showdown not really being something you’d expect, and at the same time, something you’d exactly expect. Cold Pursuit ends up being far smarter and wittier in its execution than it has any right to be, thwarting some of the usual tropes of the action genre. It’s all firmly tongue-in-cheek, and if moviegoers complain they’ve seen this or that trick in a movie before… Well, I suppose they have. I especially liked the title cards of the deaths, they were a nice touch.
Until the sports reference, I found the storytelling so minimalistic that I couldn’t really see how the story would be resolved. But that’s the fun part. Part of the bedlam served up in this movie is you don’t know if it’s a murder mystery, or an action flick.
Cold Pursuit doesn’t try too hard to be either one. When Coxman starts knocking heads of the Denver cartel together, he doesn’t realize that he’s just hit the tip of the iceberg. Despite the losses suffered by Coxman early in the movie, he puts on a brave, stoic face, and is actually weirdly efficient at taking care of dead bodies.
It was really neat to see the ‘Taken concept’ taken apart a little bit with this film. Neeson clearly wants to do something different, and it seems is pretty aware of how people view him in association with that role from Taken.
Bottom line is, no matter how light the fare appears to be, the film Cold Pursuit is worth watching once. Liam Neeson is not a young man, either. I guess I was surprised at the good turnout he made in this movie. But what I’ve always liked about Neeson is the refreshing honesty and simplicity in his performances, and he’s a great physical actor. Honestly, I only went to watch this action thriller to see Liam Neeson kill bad guys. I ended up laughing and being entertained, too.
So all in all, not a bad way to spend a Friday night. I hope that Liam Neeson continues his tradition of beating the shit out of gangsters in his movies for many more years to come.