After his son is murdered, Nels Coxman (Liam Neeson) - a snowplow driver in the ski resort of Kehoe - begins targeting the drug dealers he believes are responsible. But things get more complicated when Nels' actions spark a war between two rival gangs. With bodies dropping all over town and the cops closing in, will Nels get a shot at his ultimate target?
Based on "In Order of Disappearance" and directed by Hans Petter Moland (the director of In Order of Disappearance) comes an action/revenge thriller with a lot of dark humour. Now I know what you're thinking...Liam Neeson in an action/revenge thriller, this must be Taken 4. Well that's actually a lot further from the truth than it sounds. Which for one thing, means Cold Pursuit doesn't feature a really cool phone call scene. I'm not sure how that would go either; "I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want...I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills that I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for...snow." Yep, in his latest role Liam Neeson is playing nothing more than a mountain man, one who drives a snowplow for a living and likes to hunt. There's no Jason Bourne style fights or secret identities here, and that's probably why it's so much fun.
Neeson's 'every-man' is kind of figuring it out this whole quest for revenge thing as he goes along - his method for disposing of bodies for example, he got from a crime novel. That and the fact he's pretty much oblivious to the consequences of his actions, as the state-wide criminal underworld implodes. Nels Coxman is simply a father who finds a way - albeit an extreme one - to deal with the grief of losing his son. But the character is very relatable in this way, how many victims of such a tragedy have at the very least considered this same path? And despite the fact that he essentially sets off on a killing spree, Nels is still very likeable, the main reason for which is that he never really loses his humanity, targeting only criminals, in ways that won't endanger innocent bystanders.
The way Moland blends the dark nature of the story with light humour is genius. You may not expect it, but Cold Pursuit conjures a lot of laughs, when I saw it people were still laughing as they left the cinema. Watching Nels utilise the tools of his trade during the course of his mission is both genius and hilarious. Not to mention the little moments, like when he shares a laugh with one of his targets - who mocks Nels for being old and tired - before unceremoniously executing him. Then there's the two drug gangs led by Viking (Tom Bateman in a scene stealing role) and White Bull (Tom Jackson), Jackson does stoic/controlled anger very well and Bateman is deliciously over-the-top evil as Viking, the man who is happy to sell drugs to anyone but loses his shit if someone gives his son junk food. They can't figure out why the violence is escalating and just because it's the easiest and most obvious answer they go to war with each other. The movie doesn't shy away from the fact that seeking revenge for the death of a son, simply leads to more dead sons.
If I had one complaint about Cold Pursuit, and unfortunately I do, it's that the female characters are given next to nothing to do. Laura Dern is totally wasted, her soul purpose is to be the loving wife turned grieving mother, that's it. Emmy Rossum's Kehoe cop looks to be a good investigator, but she never feels like a threat to Nels or his quest. You're more worried about one of the warring drug gangs getting to Nels, not the cops. And Julia Jones, her character 'Aya' is pretty fierce, it's good to see her standing up to 'Viking' - her ex-husband. She does get one great moment where she almost literally grabs the bull by its horns (or something a little more tender), but it's over in a flash. It's a shame to think that these tough, interesting characters were developed, with some fantastic actors cast to play them, and then were given little or nothing to do.
Cold Pursuit is a good old-fashioned revenge movie. One that will make you wince and cheer for the underdog all at the same time. And despite some shocking mis-management of the female characters - not to mention the tragic nature of the story - by the time you've finished watching it, the likelihood is you'll be laughing.
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