Cold Pursuit

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

Cold Pursuit
dir Hans Petter Moland
scr Frank Baldwin
prd Finn Gjerdrum, Stein B Kvae, Michael Shamberg, Ameet Shukla
with Liam Neeson, Tom Bateman, Emmy Rossum, Julia Jones, Tom Jackson, William Forsythe, John Doman, Raoul Trujillo, Domenick Lombardozzi, Benjamin Hollingsworth, Arnold Pinnock, Laura Dern
release US 8.Feb19,
UK 22.Feb.19
19/UK StudioCanal 1h58

bateman forsythe dern
See also:
In Order of Disappearance (2014)

Cold Pursuit
Norwegian filmmaker Hans Petter Moland remakes his own 2014 black comedy In Order of Disappearance as a gritty revenge thriller starring Liam Neeson. Yes, it's still packed with amusing gallows humour, and the story unfolds in an almost shot-by-shot re-creation of the escalating misplaced mayhem. But this film lacks the personal touch in various father-son relationships that made the original such a gem.
In a ski resort town in the Rockies, Nels (Neeson) has a quiet life ploughing snow until his son is murdered. His wife (Dern) abruptly leaves, but Nels plots revenge against the thugs who framed his son's death as an overdose. Moving up through the ranks, his ultimate target is Viking (Bateman), a swaggering Denver crime boss who coolly kills anyone he's done with. But Viking thinks that it's the Native American mob boss White Bull (Jackson) who's offing his goons. And the local cops (Rossum and Doman) can't piece the clues together either.
Mistaken assumptions continually send the plot spiralling off into unexpected collisions, while Nels calmly sticks to his plan. Meanwhile, the quickly rising body count (with each death getting its moment of silence) leads inexorably to a chaotic showdown. The film is beautifully shot, with a real eye for icy landscapes and meters-deep snowdrifts (it was shot in Canada). And each of the actors gets to add plenty of offhanded quirkiness to his or her character.

For a film that so gleefully plays with gruesome irony, the performances all feel rather restrained. Neeson gives his angry Taken dad a world-weary slant that feels age-appropriate but isn't much fun to watch. Bateman plays Viking as a fast-talking jerk, but pulls back from anything truly nasty. There are a few spiky women who are edgier than any of the men, but none gets much to do as far as the plot is concerned.

In other words, while Moland has made an often unnervingly faithful version of his original film, this feels like a Martin McDonagh movie with the incendiary dialog removed. It's still loose and nutty, exploring the futility of revenge in a way that's both head-spinningly messy and farcically ridiculous. But the characters are muted, and the themes are subdued to the point of invisibility. This is most notable in the Native American plot thread, which never gains any traction, perhaps because the filmmakers were afraid of offending someone. Which isn't the way to approach a black comedy.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 4.Feb.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall