Cold Pursuit review: The hullabaloo around Liam Neeson’s revenge comments in the preamble to Cold Pursuit’s Stateside release has cast an unfortunate shadow on his latest action thriller. Before the film became notorious though, it already faces a bunch of snide jokes at its expense, as Neeson portrays a snow plough driver out for revenge after the death of his son. It seemed as though the Liam Neeson action factory had come to a complete standstill where original ideas were concerned. From one perspective they are right, as this is a remake of Norwegian thriller In Order of Disappearance. But in all actuality, this is quite simply one of Neeson’s best films, and a peculiar delight that will hopefully surprise audiences.
The trailer for Cold Pursuit did all it could to focus on not only the action, but also the comedy, but even that can’t prepare you for just how wickedly funny this revenge flick is. Frank Baldwin’s adaptation of Kim Fupz Aakeson’s original screenplay continuously catches the viewer off guard. It may be a simple revenge story, as Neeson’s Nels Coxman looks for drug runners who forcibly OD’d his son, but the majority of characters are given humanistic quirks that makes them endearing. Even Tom Bateman’s villainous Viking is forever human despite his despicable actions, in no small part due to his constant bickering with his ex-wife Aya (Julia Jones) regarding their son’s gluten free diet.
As Neeson makes his way through Viking’s underlings, we’re treated to violence that makes you both wince and chuckle. Each death is followed by a title card stating the victim’s name and a symbol of their religion. Director of In Order of Disappearance, Hans Petter Moland, revisits this material in a similar fashion as before, but also seems very aware that this is a Liam Neeson action vehicle. In that sense he heightens the comedy in line with audience expectations, while giving them something a lot deeper to contemplate. As Coxman continues on his journey, it is the paranoia and disrespect of Viking and other rival drug cartels that escalate the stakes. Neeson may have a number of hard-man roles behind him at this point, but here he is perfectly capable of slipping back into the unassuming, soft spoken, and mild mannered part that he used to be known for.
Cold Pursuit has a lot of fun exploring its world, and it is that which truly delights. It’s a small town indie drama that collides with a Tarantino crime film, while simultaneously having the witty dialogue and pathos of a McDonagh brothers film. The beautiful and chilling landscape summarises the film and protagonist perfectly, with the ability to offer thoughtful isolation, as well as being harsh and unforgiving. Laura Dern is unfortunately absent for the majority of the film, and towards the end the emotion makes way for more violence, and even though that may be entirely intentional, it does create very slight unevenness towards the climax.
Sharp, smart, and sinister, Cold Pursuit deserves a big audience and to overcome any controversy that has preceded it. There are laughs, awkward beats, and pure emotion at times, which make it one of the most well rounded films in recent memory. Fans of Neeson won’t be disappointed, while the more cynical will be pleasantly surprised. This may not be the action film some will expect, but it entertains a worrying amount. Revenge may be best served cold, but Cold Pursuit will leave you feeling a conflicted sense of warmth.
Cold Pursuit is in cinemas from 22nd February.