Release Date: February 8, 2019
Director: Hans Petter Moland
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 118 Minutes
It’s been 11 years since the release of Taken and the beginning of Liam Neeson’s turn as an action star in a whole heck of a lot of movies that involve him playing a husband and father who kills a whole lot of dudes, and although most of these films have been middling at best, Cold Pursuit, his latest foray into the revenge thriller, is one of his best.
Directed by Hans Petter Moland, Cold Pursuit is a nearly shot-for-shot remake of his film In Order of Disappearance, which was released only five years ago, but it plays like a slightly upgraded version with small improvements over the original, which starred the equally incredible Stellan Skarsgård.
Neeson plays Nels Coxman, a snow plow driver who keeps his town’s main road clear in the winter months, a job that lands him the award Citizen of the Year from his sleepy little burg outside of Denver. The celebration is cut short, however, when he finds out his son was found dead of a drug overdose, an event he is sure was not self inflicted. Now, Nels is going to kill his way up the food chain of some local drug dealers until he finds the man responsible for his son’s death and can exact his own brand of justice.
Cold Pursuit is tonally reminiscent of Fargo; beyond its snowy landscape, it’s also the injection of pitch-black humor into a gritty and violent crime thriller, an element that any future Neeson action flicks could use more of. Neeson plays the straight man most of the time but still elicits humor on occasion, with one of the funniest moments being when he reads a snow plow catalogue aloud to a young boy. This dynamic is one of the aspects expanded upon over the original, with Nicholas Holmes playing a more developed-character version of the boy, Ryan.
Even the deaths, and there are plenty, are played with a wry sense of humor, with cut to black and the name of and a religious symbol for each individual who dies throughout the nearly two-hour runtime. This plays to even more comedic effect when the audience doesn’t see the person get killed, but suddenly that person’s name appears on screen, letting us know that, yeah, he dead.
Laura Dern portrays Nels’ wife, but, similar to the original, the character is woefully underdeveloped and vanishes after the first act. It seems like a missed opportunity to have Dern in this role and not give her the opportunity to shine, but her presence in any film is welcomed and she excels with what little she has.
Tom Bateman plays the main baddie, Viking, a charmingly sadistic and complex antagonist, at once a frustrated divorcee attempting to be a good father to his son and ruthlessly murdering anyone who crosses him.
Cold Pursuit is thrilling, funny and brutally violent, and, despite it essentially being the exact same as the 2014 version, it’s a marked improvement and sure to reach a wider audience. Don’t sleep on this one as it’s Neeson’s best actioner since The Grey.