‘Cold Pursuit’ review: Eccentric examination on revenge cycle

Taking cues from Fargo series and a Quentin Tarantino-inspired direction, ‘Cold Pursuit‘ might be the strangest action film in Liam Neeson’s repertoire.

Debuting ten years ago is the vigilante action flick Taken, arguably the first film to discover Liam Neeson’s ‘particular set of skills’ to be the next badass hero. Since then, the actor has been a commodity in rinse-and-repeat guilty pleasures—apart from the two sequels that followed, one can point out that The Grey, Non-Stop and The Commuter, regardless of how different their procedural setups might be, are essentially follow-ups to Taken’s commercial success. Neeson’s latest, Cold Pursuit, has no pretension of breaking away from that ‘mad dad vengeance’ formula. A law-abiding family man, Nels Coxman (Neeson), turns into a killing machine after his son dies in a staged drug overdose. What follows is pretty standard: Neeson serves his brand of bloody and brass-knuckled justice, leaving a trail of bodies behind. Who gets tired of this act? Action aficionados certainly don’t.

But then Cold Pursuit suddenly tweaks your funny bone and before you know it, we already crossed a goofy territory: surprise, this is a dark comedy! Make no mistake, the script is far from one, but Peter Molland’s visual and editing choices draw absurd delight from the blood lust at play. As the character death escalates, each demise is commemorated by slapping on screen their fancy nicknames along with a cross symbol. Could it be an ode to all the nameless henchmen that most thrillers take for granted? Nope, this is definitely a running joke. By the time the film reaches to a gory conclusion, several names are plastered on screen and I couldn’t help but to laugh out loud.

Liam Neeson in ‘Cold Pursuit’

It’s hard not to admire the film’s visceral cinematography, the fine performances from Neeson and the supporting cast, and even the funny one-liners. The film moves from one crazy scenario to the next, and the sooner you give into its silliness, the better it will be. Coxman uses a snowplow truck as a weapon for mass destruction, and elsewhere, a group of ruthless assassins throw snowballs at each other and giggle like kids. Odd as it may seem, the grisly violence and comic elements mesh together.

Neeson is as earnest as ever: Coxman is a quiet, gloomy man who has learned how to kill and cover his tracks from “reading a crime novel,” while Tom Bateman as the hair-trigger psycho villain Viking, chews the scenery with a heightened sense of gleeful wickedness. The latter borders at a campy level, but considering that the film operates in the director’s twisted sense of humor, it works.

Tom Bateman (Trevor “Viking” Calcote) and Liam Neeson (Nelson “Nels” Coxman)

Plowing through its thick ice of bleak humor, Cold Pursuit unexpectedly feels introspective; it’s an eccentric examination on the cycle of revenge that all starts from one character. While it can be amusing to watch Neeson dispatch bad guys in a ludicrous fashion for two hours, that can get repetitive. So as a defense mechanism, director Molland sprawls the plot outwards to include more characters who’ll do the killing. As Coxman’s suspicions are confirmed (his son is indeed murdered by a gang of drug dealers), he stops at nothing to exact his vengeance. By doing so, he inadvertently sets off a turf war between Viking’s troop and their rival Native American gang headed by White Bull (Tom Jackson). The film shows that vengeance has a powerful ripple effect: one man’s revenge gets blown out of proportion throughout the town. A leader’s son gets killed, and once the phrase “a son for a son” gets mentioned, you know it only goes downhill from there.

Liam Neeson and Tom Jackson (White Bull)

Neeson fans will definitely find amusement here so long as they’re not appalled by the film’s drastic tonal shift to comedy. However, those who are leaning towards more bombastic action setpieces, this film can feel underwhelming. There’s not much elaborate fight choreography and ambitious use of firepower—the brutality here is much grounded on reality.

Cold Pursuit gets unfocused along the way with all the loose subplots involved. It does not always hit its mark as a black comedy save for the most part. The film indulges on its curiosity to explore the thoughts and intentions of the characters surrounding the plot before bringing them together to an eventual carnage-filled third act. It’s almost a satirical take on revenge films—a proof that with the right amount of macabre humor, one can make an above-average revenge thriller.

3.5 out of 5 stars
Directed by Hans Petter Moland and written by Frank Baldwin, ‘Cold Pursuit‘ stars Liam Neeson, Tom Bateman, Tom Jackson, Emmy Rossum, Domenick Lombardozzi, Julia Jones, John Doman, and Laura Dern. Based on the 2014 Norwegian film, ‘In Order of Disappearance.’ Run time: 118 minutes.

Liam Neeson takes on a vengeance spree in ‘Cold Pursuit’

Vengeance knows no boundaries, Liam Neeson’s latest action thriller “Cold Pursuit” bleeds the drug cartel dry as the man known with a unique set of skills takes on the role of Nels Coxman, a snowplough driver whose only son was murdered by a powerful drug cartel in their town.

This twisted revenge story swirls around Neeson’s Nels Coxman, a snowplough driver in the Colorado ski resort of Kehoe. Just named Citizen of the Year for his services in keeping the roads open to the remote town, Coxman’s life swiftly spirals into amateur retribution and an escalating pile of corpses when his son (played by Micheál Richardson) is mistakenly killed by local gangsters over a stash of missing drugs. All he knows about killing people is what he read in a crime novel, but Coxman sets off with a sawn-off hunting rifle, and unwittingly begins a chain of events that will include a snowbound turf war, kidnapping, two rival crime lords and a host of hoodlums with colourful nicknames like Maverick, Mustang, and Smoke.

“A whole can of worms.” That’s how Liam Neeson describes what his character opens in Hans Petter Moland’s blisteringly violent and bitingly hilarious COLD PURSUIT. “My character goes out on a path of vengeance, but doesn’t realise what he’s getting himself into,” says Neeson. “He thinks he’s going after one guy who killed his son. In actual fact, it all escalates into a whirlwind of vengeance and violence. And it all has this grain of dark humour running through it, if you can imagine that!”

There aren’t many actors whose CV include everything from an Oscar-nominated turn in

“Schindler’s List” to a Jedi, a Batman villain, a shady cop made out of Lego and a talking Lion. But then, Liam Neeson isn’t like many other actors.  With an astonishing 126 credits to his name, the 66-year-old famously saw himself unwittingly reinvented as an action star a decade ago, with his starring role as Bryan Mills in the huge global smash that was TAKEN. But while that movie’s plot, of a father out for revenge against the men who have put his offspring in danger, may sound like it shares some DNA with that of Cold Pursuit, the latter sees him deliver a performance unlike any in his already storied career.

“On the one level, Cold Pursuit is a great, classic revenge thriller,” says Neeson. “But what was really appealing to me was the dark undercurrent of humour that runs through it.” Or, as his director, Hans Petter Moland puts it: “Basically, this is Liam Neeson like you’ve never seen him before. It’s a very special, unique performance.”