Remember when Michael Jordan and Brett Favre both kept retiring and promising that it was “for real this time”? Yeah, that seems to be Liam Neeson with his “old man with a gun” films.
“Cold Pursuit” is a remake of the 2014 Norwegian film “In Order of Disappearance,” which was directed by Hans Petter Moland, who also directs here. It stars Liam Neeson as a snowplow driver in the mountains of Colorado who sets out on a path of revenge when his son is killed by a local drug lord. Laura Dern, Emmy Rossum, William Forsythe and Tom Bateman also star.
Most of Liam Neeson’s “’Taken’ on a [blank]” films have been middling for me, with almost all of them– “The Commuter,” “Unknown,” “Non-Stop”– running out of steam before they even get to their climax (one exception is “Run All Night” which I just rewatched the other day and is a criminally underrated film). While the trailers for “Cold Pursuit” made it look like “’Taken’ in a Snowplow” the end result is more of a black comedy, “Walk Among the Tombstones” venture, and it plays like a tonally and pacing-confused wannabe Coen Brothers slog.
You have to give credit where it is due, despite saying his was going to hang up the action hat in 2017, Liam Neeson can still hang with the best of them at 66 years old. Not many stars can still open a movie at that age, much less in the action genre, although I’m sure we will have Tom Cruise launching “Mission: Impossible 14” when he’s 80. Here, Neeson doesn’t really get a lot of emotional work to do, but he does give it his all (he has never been one to seem to mail it in) and there is something of a sense of gravitas having him on screen. The issue is for a film sold with Neeson as the lead, he isn’t actually on the screen for large portions. After a trio of murders get the ball rolling things really slow down, and that is where much of the film’s faults lie.
This film is just… devoid of pacing. Things happen with Neeson early on that by the time we reach the climax, they feel like they took place an entirely different movie ago. Things jump between Neeson and a crimeboss named “Viking” (a cartoonishly stupid Tom Bateman), before we toss in the lives of Native American drug dealers and a spunky young cop, too, because why not? Nothing is consistent—tone, pacing, not even color schemes—and honestly this film dragsss for long chunks. It so clearly tries to be a Coen Brothers film, full of sudden violence, dark comedy and whacky characters, but forgets to include any of the wit or absurdity that makes people love the pair’s films in the first place. Laura Dern is also in this movie for…reasons, until the studio couldn’t afford her anymore and she just, you know, leaves and never comes back.
The action is…fine, although despite being rated R it never really takes advantage of things. People get punched to a pulp and lose some teeth, but there are headshots that don’t contain blood and some kills are even offscreen. Why? Truly beats me.
“Cold Pursuit” is an odd film, because it is well-made enough but it just wasn’t interesting, fun or engaging, and when it wasn’t being boring it was just being weird. I didn’t find enjoyment in much of the dark humor (normally my cup of tea) and Neeson isn’t even given very many kills to carry out so there is not even a guilty-pleasure aspect to it. All-in-all, this feels like a missed opportunity and just like last week’s “Miss Bala” goes to show that maybe America doesn’t need to remake every single foreign film…
Critic’s Rating: 4/10