Nels Coxman (Liam Neeson) is a snowplough driver, who has just been awarded ‘Citizen Of The Year’ by his fellow residents in the ski town of Kehoe, Colorado. He lives a quiet life with his wife Grace (Laura Dern) and son Kyle (Micheál Richardson), until one day Kyle is found dead of a drug overdose.
Convinced that his son was not an addict and that there’s more to his death than it first appeared, Nels makes it his mission to discover what happened. What he finds leads to a massive war between two rival gangs, and one hell of a body count.
Cold Pursuit is Hans Petter Moland’s English-language remake of his Norwegian film, In Order Of Disappearance, where Stellan Skarsgård played the leading role. Perhaps it’s these Norwegian origins that makes it feel so different to all the other movies where Liam Neeson kills a whole bunch of people.
For starters, it’s really, really funny. There’s an inky black vein of humour that runs all the way through, from the awkward squeak of the morgue table where Nels and Grace view their son, to the literal embodiment of that old adage ‘Don’t shoot the messenger’. Although there is plenty of violence here, the emphasis is on the comedy. Not all the jokes land – the bit with the awkward squeak is repeated again later, to a diminished effect – but most do.A lot of this is tribute to the cast, who do excellent work balancing the tricky line between laughs and death. For the most part, Liam Neeson sticks to his usual schtick with pleasing results. Tom Bateman is the real standout as notorious gang leader ‘The Viking’, who has no qualms with murder yet does object to one of his henchmen packing a sugary cookie into his young son’s lunchbox. While his role is arguably the funniest, that doesn’t take the edge off his viciousness. Laura Dern pops up here too; Cold Pursuit’s greatest misstep is that she disappears after less than five minutes of screen time, never to be seen again. Wasting Laura Dern is always a mistake.
Whilst the story begins as a simple revenge plot, it isn’t long before it has opened up to become something a lot bigger, and a lot more complicated. Petter Moland is very careful with his pacing, leaving plenty of space for scenes to work, and for the strong characterisation to come through. The twists, turns, and subplots of this intricate tale leads to some of the highlights, like the Fargo-esque police department who have no clue what is going on, or The Viking’s two gay henchman in the middle of a secret love affair. Cold Pursuit is a circuitous ride, but it’s worth the journey.
Prizing comedy over violence, though it doesn’t lack for either, Cold Pursuit is Liam Neeson’s best revenge movie since Taken – the original, of course. With his ‘retirement’ from actioners little but a dim and distant memory, it looks like there’ll be plenty more to come.
Cold Pursuit is available on Digital Download, 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and Steelbook now.