Liam Neeson has decided to do something different with his career. After years of starring in action thrillers where a man gets revenge for losing a family member, he has now made a film about a man who gets revenge after losing a family member…but this time it’s a comedy (sort of). Cold Pursuit isn’t quite funny enough to be a comedy, nor is it thrilling enough to be a thriller. But it is very enjoyable and offers some great moments.
Directed by Hans Petter Moland, Cold Pursuit is an English remake of his 2014 Norwegian film ‘In Order of Disappearance’ starring Stellan Skarsgård. The narrative tells the story of a snow plough driver whose son is found dead after a heroin overdose. Believing this drug overdose to be untrue, the father decides to investigate the death and discovers a chain of drug dealers may have been responsible. It could be an average revenge thriller, but it has been elevated to a higher level thanks to the use of some amazingly well put together black comedy.
Neeson has been marred with some horrendous allegations recently, which have spiralled completely out of control. It’s a shame that this has impacted on the film, because it shouldn’t have. Neeson’s character within the narrative is his usual role as a family member, but this time he is also delivering some absolutely brilliant deadpan humour which really elevates the performance and makes it far more original to the things he normally gets up to in these types of films.
The rest of the cast all enjoy chewing the fat of what they’re given. There is an angry antagonistic dad, some racial stereotypes, many Native Americans and the most bizarre fleeting performance from a completely wasted Laura Dern. She plays Neeson’s wife for the first 20 minutes of the film, before her character suddenly disappears with NO EXPLANATION, and never shows up again.
The narrative does a fairly good job of weaving between Neeson’s personal story and the stories of the American and Native American drug dealers. I also loved the characterisation device of using the snow plough as a sign of impending doom, just as Spielberg did with a truck in his debut feature film Duel. Another genius move was the bizarre method of signalling a death. After each character was killed, the screen would cut to black, and their name, their drug dealer nickname and their religious symbol would flash up on screen. This method was then effectively reused later in the film, where we could simply see a character, get an implication that they were going to be killed, and the screen would cut to black to confirm this. Maybe it isn’t well explained, but within the film it worked remarkably well.
So unfortunately, there are also some bad points about the film. It is certainly too long, and shaving a good 15-20 minutes from the run time would make the whole narrative run a lot smoother. The story itself was also a little too contrived, with not quite enough explanation given to fully confirm the events.
As a whole, Cold Pursuit does work. It blends Liam Neeson revenge thrills with the absolute bleak comedy of Fargo with fair success. It’s forgettable fun, with an interesting new take on a well-worn premise.