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Cold Pursuit review - when the supporting cast outshines Liam Neeson

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Liam Neeson stars as Nels Coxman in Cold Pursuit, the American remake of the Stellan Skarsgård-led Norwegian language film In Order of Disappearance - a gruesome black comedy about how far a father is willing to go in order to avenge his son.

Image Credit: STUDIOCANAL S.A.S.

Following the scrutiny and outrage regarding Neeson’s comments during the press tour for Cold Pursuit, I entered this film with skepticism, unsure what type of experience to expect. I walked away feeling both cold from the frigid, snowy landscape on screen, and simultaneously as if I should shower to wash off all the carnage that was displayed on the screen, as surely some of that blood must have got on me?

Nels Coxman’s life is seemingly wonderful - he has a job he loves and a family he clearly adores, and has found happiness in his small quiet existence as a snowplow driver. Shortly after being named “citizen of the year” of his small town of Kehoe, Colorado, Coxman’s world is shattered by the sudden death of his son. While doctors and his wife (played by the always brilliant Laura Dern, who was disappointingly under-used in this film) seem to believe that his son’s death was caused by a heroin overdose, Nels refuses to accept this. Utterly lost and destroyed, he is near to attempting suicide until evidence comes to light that his son was not a drug addict, yet simply got mixed up with a dangerous gang and was ultimately murdered by a drug cartel.

 

Now that he has some answers, It becomes his quest to unravel the whole truth, it seems each and every man responsible for his son’s death will pay that price with their life. One victim leads to another, and before you know it the body counts begin to pile up in a horrifyingly gruesome, yet somehow comedic body count toll. The black comedy characterisation works well for this film, and separates it from feeling like your typical Liam Neeson action movie, despite Game of Thrones - type levels of blood and gore.

Image Credit: STUDIOCANAL S.A.S.

Despite issues of accuracy, massive gore, the rampant misogyny and grotesque violence that could be off-putting to many viewers, the film really shines when the supporting cast is given the chance to show their worth. Despite having 15 minutes of screen time and a grand total of 12 lines, Laura Dern absolutely shines as a devastated mother struggling to accept the loss of her son.

Tom Bateman is incredible, fully believable as Trevor Calcotte, aka “Viking” - the fully psychopathic drug kingpin who drips with misogyny, arrogance, and ego. It must have been thrilling and somewhat enjoyable to play a douche bag of this magnitude, a man who takes pleasure in hitting his ex-wife, sexually assaulting maids, and killing his enemies and employees alike just for pleasure. Surely nobody is truly this terrible in real-life, which makes the role somewhat captivating, as audience members take pleasure in hating him.

Emmy Rossum also has her chance to shine, as the eager young cop who naively believes she can crack the case and solve the mysterious drug-turf war.

 

Image Credit: STUDIOCANAL S.A.S.

Perhaps the biggest issue that Cold Pursuit has within the film is that it overcomplicates itself, trying to keep up all of its different plot lines, allegiances and characters, only to kill nearly everybody in the end. The plot of a father seeking revenge for their son is overdone and doesn’t seem to sit right with the “west side story” type of turf war happening between two warring drug kingpins, the white collar crime lords and the Native American reservation all within the tiny town of Kehoe. At first, this feels like two insanely different stories happening within the same two hours - until the last 20 minutes of the film, when it appears that Liam Neeson’s character has somehow been planning this all along, despite this never having been made clear to the audience.

As an American remake of Norwegian vigilante film In Order of Disappearance, despite Cold Pursuit’s somewhat impressive attempts to be both an action movie and a black comedy film, the ultimate story boils down to a father's love of their son, and we the audience are hit over the head with this message countless times throughout. Whether it be Liam Neeson’s revenge-fuelled journey to deal with his grief, the caring way the Native American chief White Bull regards his son’s passing, or even kingpin Viking’s attempt at controlling his son’s diet, we see the actions of fathers who ultimately love their sons, even if their intentions are less than pure.

Cold Pursuit will be in UK cinemas 22 February 2019.




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