Directed by: Hans Petter Moland
Premise: A remake of the Norwegian film In Order of Disappearance. In a Colorado ski town, a father (Liam Neeson) seeks revenge on the drug dealers who killed his son. He unwittingly instigates a war between different criminal organizations.
What Works: Ever since the release of Taken in 2008, virtually every first quarter has seen the release of a gritty action picture starring Liam Neeson. These movies have varied dramatically in quality from the superb The Grey to the sloppy Taken sequels. Cold Pursuit is purportedly Neeson’s last go around in the action genre and it’s distinct from his other films. On its surface, Cold Pursuit is a familiar revenge story like those Neeson has made before. He plays a man whose son was murdered under mysterious circumstances and Neeson’s character kills his way up the hierarchy of a drug operation. But Cold Pursuit is an example of how the execution and minor details can elevate familiar material. The movie is terrifically shot and it has a vivid sense of place. The action is set against the Rocky Mountains and the landscape possesses natural beauty but also a cold harshness that’s a fitting backdrop for this story. The characters are kooky, especially the kingpin played by Tom Bateman, and the whole film has an off kilter, Martin McDonagh-esque sense of humor. The comic qualities are offset by a sense of melancholy. The violence is more impactful than the kills of the average action picture and the deaths have consequences and gravitas.
What Doesn’t: Compared to the other movies of this sort that Liam Neeson has made, Cold Pursuit comes up light on the action. There is enough of it, but Cold Pursuit doesn’t have the level of carnage seen in comparable films and it might let down action aficionados looking for more gunplay. There are a lot of elements to the story of Cold Pursuit and the filmmakers struggle to keep all of the characters and subplots in play. That’s especially true of the local law enforcement officers played by Emmy Rossum and John Doman. The officers are fun to watch and Rossum and Doman are an effective odd couple but the two characters don’t really do anything. Laura Dern is cast as Neeson’s wife and Dern is wasted in a throwaway role. Cold Pursuit also suffers from a few leaps in its reasoning. Some of the plotting relies on coincidences and characters make apparently unmotivated decisions.
Bottom Line: Cold Pursuit is one of Liam Neeson’s better action films and if it’s his last the movie is a fitting end to this phase of his career. It is flawed but the movie’s humor and characterization distinguish it from similar pictures.
Episode: #737 (February 17, 2019)