Note: On the day I was due to review this film, the Independent published an interview with Liam Neeson that aptly prompted a media firestorm. In this interview he admitted that when a friend of his had been raped, he roamed the streets for about a week with a cosh, hoping that some “black bastard” would initiate a confrontation with him so that he could “kill him”. For obvious reasons, reactions to this have overshadowed promotion of the film, and resulted in the cancellation of the movie’s red carpet premiere. While watching the film, the connecting theme of revenge was never far from my mind, but I have done my best to separate the two.
Cold Pursuit is not your average Neeson film. I mean, it certainly has all the ingredients—somebody does something to piss him off, he vows revenge, and kills a plethora of people whilst keeping relatively calm and stony-eyed—but the difference? Well, you mightn’t be disappointed for once. But don’t quote me on that.
The movie begins with the following words plastered across the screen: “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.”
That there is an Oscar Wilde quote. No, Neeson isn’t going anywhere—at least not for the next two hours of your life. And if you’re already confused, well, you’re in for a long ride!
Directed by Hans Petter Moland, Cold Pursuit is a remake of Molan’s 2014 film In Order of Disappearance. The film follows Nels Coxman (Liam Neeson), whose quiet life as a snowplough driver is thrown into the void after his son’s alleged “overdose”. When Coxman discovers that a drug lord is responsible—well, you know the drill. Using a specific set of tools or skills—which in this case is a snowplough and a sawed-off rifle—Coxman kills every absurdly nicknamed thug he can get his hands on.
The man responsible for his son’s death is dubbed “Viking”, but despite the intimidating nickname, Trevor “Viking” Calcote is not much of a nasty-king pin—just a sociopathic, misogynistic brat with a psychopathic ego. If Chuck Bass and Patrick Bateman had a baby, he’d be a Denver-based drug lord parading around as an awful parent and ex-husband.
When Coxman is done with killing Viking’s goons—Speedo, Limbo, Santa, Sleepy and Sneezy (I made the last two up)—he kidnaps Calcote’s son, Ryan, and finds himself in the middle of a turf war between two historic foes. And quicker than you can say: “yeah, I really botched that interview”, another twelve men bite the (icy) dust.
Throughout this intensely violent film, there are a number of humorous little gems, like the savage blank good-bye card left by Coxman’s wife following the death of their son. Perfectly disguised as the usual Neeson-kills-all crusade, this action flick was surprisingly—and some-what outlandishly—quite funny. At times it felt ridiculous for the sake of it, but I feel that might’ve been the point.
In comparison to Neeson’s usual films, Cold Pursuit was a breath of fresh air. Although I’m a sucker for a violence-infused action thriller, it was the irreverent humour—undoubtedly influenced by Moland—that stole the show. There’s even something for the romantics, with a sweet (albeit shortly lived) romance between two of Viking’s henchmen. If you can put aside the media shit-storm that the tactless Neeson has conveniently planned for his new release, this one is actually worth a watch. Although the leading man has seemed to disappoint, the film does not.
Cold Pursuit is out at selected Perth’s cinemas now.