Movie Review: ‘COLD PURSUIT’ a cold tale of revenge that is warmly entertaining

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Travis Leamons // Film Critic

COLD PURSUIT

Rated R, 119 minutes.
Director: Hans Petter Moland
Cast: Liam NeesonLaura DernMicheál Richardson, Michael Eklund, Bradley Stryker, Wesley MacInnes, Tom Bateman, Emmy Rossum and William Forsythe

Something funny happened a little more than a decade ago to Liam Neeson. The actor known for his title roles in SCHINDLER’S LIST, ROB ROY, and MICHAEL COLLINS suddenly became an action-thriller star with the success of TAKEN. His latest thrill ride, COLD PURSUIT, looks to be another standard revenge tale involving a snowplow driver, Nels Coxman (Neeson), tracking down the drug kingpin and his associates responsible for killing his son. With each murderous act, Nels works his way up the villain hierarchy. Along the way, however, Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland offers dark humor and interludes to ensure that this cold tale of revenge is warmly and oddly entertaining.

But a sense of déjà vu hangs over the picture since Moland adapts his original Norwegian film, IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE, for English-speaking audiences. Before the feature started, I jokingly remarked that Neeson would dispatch his victims in the same order of appearance as IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE. I wasn’t wrong – Nels does just that. Whenever a character dies an inter-title pops up featuring the person’s real name, gangster nickname, and a cross. This happens quite a bit.

Though Liam Neeson is the star for a sizable portion of the second act, he is missing. In his absence are a pair of local officers working the murders being committed; the introduction of a rival, Native American drug operation (which leads to a turf war); and the lead villain “Viking” (Tom Bateman) handling his underlings and parenting his son as if William Golding’s THE LORD OF THE FLIES was the go-to manual, not Dr. Spock’s THE COMMON SENSE BOOK OF BABY AND CHILD CARE.

Interrupting the proceedings by allocating time for bad guys to talk about fantasy football and motel tricks involving a maid and a twenty-dollar bill, you would think they once ate at the same diner as the “Misters” in Quentin Tarantino’s RESERVOIR DOGS. The moments are funny, sometimes distracting, with only a few jokes hitting their intended target – unlike Neeson and his murderous methods, which always leave a mark.

This is said to be Irish actor’s last hurrah as a grizzled action hero. Nels is an uncompromising, industrious individual in line with the other characters Neeson has played. Nels also allows him to come full circle with his on-camera journey as an aging bad-ass. Only instead of getting angry on the phone with a bad guy that kidnapped his daughter (TAKEN), he calls Viking and lets him know he has his son.

If you already seen IN THE ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE, then you’ve already seen COLD PURSUIT. Fans of Liam Neeson in kick-ass mode will get what they want with some added gallows humor to liven the mood and the murders.

Grade: B-

COLD PURSUIT is now playing.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.