The trailers for Hans Petter Moland’s Cold Pursuit make the film out to be yet another Taken knockoff starring Liam Neeson, this time placing him in the arctic tundra with a shotgun and army of bad guys he has to take down.
That’s not what the movie really is, though. Not even close.
Based on a Norwegian film starring Stellan Skarsgard called In Order of Disappearance, which also was directed by Moland, Cold Pursuit is weird mashup of genres that include anything from crime and thriller to comedy and parody.
Seriously, this one is really all over the map.
Nelson Coxman (Neeson) really isn’t all over the map, though. He generally likes to stay in one place with his wife, Grace (Laura Dern), and son, Kyle (Michael Richardson) — that place being their quaint little home in Kehoe, Colorado.
Coxman isn’t exactly what you’d call a ‘people person.’ He’s the town’s local snowplow driver, which is a job he enjoys very much because it lets him be by himself most days. Even when he’s recognized for his work by being named Kehoe’s Citizen of the Year, he’s still pretty visibly shaken up over the idea of having to give an acceptance speech.
Yet, once Kyle goes missing and then shows up dead two days later, Coxman realizes he’s going to have to get over his nerves if he wants some answers.
The cops tell Coxman that his son died due to heroine overdose, which is a pretty common occurrence in Kehoe — even though Coxman would swear on his life that his son would never touch hard drugs like that.
Those feelings are confirmed when Coxman finds one of Kyle’s friends badly injured and scared to death in his garage one night.
According to this friend, Kyle was mixed up in some giant conspiracy theory involving a ruthless, albeit professionally handled, crime lord known only as Viking (Tom Bateman).
That’s all the confirmation that Coxman needs to begin a bloody killing spree out of revenge, as he begins walking around with his sawed off shotgun while trying to find Viking and shooting anyone who might stand in his way.
And all of that happens within the first ten minutes of Cold Pursuit, no lie.
The film then goes on to introduce a number of wildly egregious subplots that don’t necessarily have anything to do with Coxman, but rather highlight the way in which Viking runs his operation, his rivalry with a Native American gang run by White Bull (Tom Jackson) and two local cops' — Kim (Emmy Possum) and Gip (John Doman) — attempts to put an end to all of this.
Throw on some added drama involving a kidnapped child, a failing marriage and a family member who’s trying to get out of the business, and suddenly you have one of the most convoluted plots of 2019.
To be fair, that plot is a whole lot more interesting than seeing Neeson do the same ole’ thing for what feels like the 80th time. No, this is much, much similar to something like Fargo (either the movie or the television series) than it is Taken.
The way in which Cold Pursuit tricks you into realizing that is pretty entertaining, too.
The first act of Cold Pursuit plays out like pretty much like you’d expect it to. The set-up is all pretty standard and Neeson is doing his angry face most of the time, making you think this whole thing is going to be pretty by-the-numbers.
Gradually, they then begin introducing this black comedy. It’s subtle at first, to the point where you start questioning whether or not they meant that to be funny or not, until about the half-way point of Cold Pursuit when they just dive head-first into this idea.
The sad thing is that I find myself more interested in that idea than I do with the overall execution.
While it’s fun and interesting to see what unexpected directions Cold Pursuit goes in, there’s one obvious thing that’s missing from this Coen Brothers’ inspired film — the Coen Brothers.
Few people can pull off the scatter-brained randomness that they’re able to include in their films and still have it be satisfying, as all the subplots and added bits of humor or absurdity in Cold Pursuit mostly just feel out of place or like a missed opportunity.
Part of that may because the film really just can’t pick a tone. At the start of the movie, everything is rather dark and grim — to the point where we see Neeson head out to the garage and put a gun in his mouth with an intent to pull the trigger before he’s interrupted. We then quickly cut from that to Bateman doing some ridiculous over-the-top villain-type thing, which feels completely independent from what we just saw.
To be clear, I think Bateman is actually one of the best parts about Cold Pursuit — and if this movie had only been about his gang fighting off the Native American gang, I probably would have enjoyed it more — but everyone just feels like they’re operating in a different world here, making it hard to get a firm grasp on any character at all.
I almost even forgot to mention Laura Dern, too, given that this movie massively wastes her talent and she's barely even in this thing at all.
Throw on some really unnecessary bits which do nothing but pad the runtime (you could have cut out everything with the two cops and this movie would be exactly the same), and what we get is a hollow shell of Fargo rather than something that’s paying any kind of homage of Fargo.
Maybe that speaks to the Coen Brother’s abilities more than anything, as they’re able to create this wild and vast worlds in ways that nobody else can (looking at you, Ballad of Buster Scruggs). Maybe Cold Pursuit is just as close as somebody can get to capturing what makes us love Joel and Ethan so much.
Regardless, Cold Pursuit still leaves its audience feeling rather cold by the time the credits roll — I checked my phone multiple times to see how much of the film was left. Even though I’d way rather see something like this than see Neeson go on yet another killing spree (especially after some of his recent, gross comments), I still can’t call this one a win.
Watch the trailer for Cold Pursuit here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought of the film!
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