Jacob Richardson | 18/02/2019
A dark comedy constantly at odds with its own tone, that never manages to achieve a strong payoff.
Nels Coxman (Liam Neeson) is an upstanding citizen; a snow plough driver who clears a vital transport path in the small town of Kehoe, outside Denver. When Nels’ son is taken out by a murderous drug dealer, he must abandon the simple, snow-ploughing job he has held for so long and take up arms in an effort to find out what happened to his boy. Little does he know, his spontaneous call to violence will thrust him into the middle of a gangland war between a city-slicking gangster and a native american drug cartel.
Cold Pursuit is a consistently disappointing film. Billed as a dark comedy, it is neither funny enough nor violent enough to ever truly satisfy your craving, and instead leaves you with a sense of ‘so what?’.
Liam Neeson seems to be going through the motions here. While undoubtedly streets ahead of his lethargic turn in Taken 3, here he never seems able to muster up the energy to make his rage convincing. Further, elements of his performance are actually quite touching, particularly a montage showing his rapid stockholm-syndrome-esque bond with a hostage he takes. Pieces like this remind us not just of Neeson’s ability to act, but also the fact that he is unequivocally due a more dramatic, meatier piece.
Shockingly, Neeson is actually the best part of this movie. He is surrounded by a largely incompetent supporting cast, particularly in the form of Tom Bateman’s Trevor ‘Viking’ Calcote, who frequently makes the film feel B-movie quality. He heads up an array of revolving baddies, who never make much impression (except in a particularly ill-thought out moment of tokenistic inclusivity between two homosexual hit men). Indeed, this sense of the ‘day player’ is strewn across both antagonist and protagonist characters, with the wife of Nels Coxman, played by Laura Dern, exiting stage left so early it is a wonder she was even included in the films trailers.
It is only Emmy Rossum as an eager detective and Julia Jones as the mob bosses’ ex-wife that really make any impression. They form two pillars of a triumvirate of slight redemption, saving Cold Pursuit from a bleak and frosty abyss. The other? Just how bloody fun it is to watch Liam Neeson finally murder someone with that snow plough.
An underwhelming black comedy, that isn’t helped by a revolving door approach to character development. Not fun nor funny enough to leave any lasting impression.