Have you ever made yourself a tall glass of ice cold lemonade, filled to the brim? Accidentally drop it, slip and fall, laugh out loud then realize you fractured your arm? That’s what “Cold Pursuit” feels like. Sweet, tangy; makes you lips smack. Great concept like a beautiful glass of lemonade, but something goes a little wrong, comedy ensues but should you laugh? No, you should go to the hospital because you broke your arm!
Dark? I know. But that’s the point.
“Cold Pursuit” is about Nels Coxman (Liam Neeson) a go0d guy gone bad. So good the winter town of Keno, Colorado just awarded him Citizen of the year as has the local snow plow driver keeping many essential roads open throughout the season. His life goes off the rails as he and his wife (Laura Dern) learn their son Kyle died of a heroin overdose. The unbelieving Coxman however, tries to move on but fails. Close to his end, consumed in sorrow; he’s given a glimmer of hope as an old friend of Kyle’s mysteriously returns to detail a shady twist to the story where the death of his son was ordered by a ruthless Drug Lord. A rage ignites in Coxman and he uses all his snowplow wiles to climb up the criminal ladder toward ultimate revenge but sparks a turf war between a rival gang along the way.
Marketed like a Coen Brothers movie with a Tarantino flare for sex and mayhem “Cold Pursuit,” is a 2016 remake of a Norwegian film by the same director Hans Petter Molland. You get the sense the script penned was shooting for a westernized adaptation of the original that would be a blend of Fargo and Pulp Fiction.
However, the Remake just doesn’t end up being as sharp or as charming.
Firmly set on his way to carry out vengeance Coxman does a decent job at piecing together the underground world parading overtly in everyday society. As he kills he’s able to extract just enough information to link to a new cog in the machine and we get introduced to a motley crew of bad guys who are more rememberable than Neeson as our lead. From “Speedo” to “Santa,” to “Mustang” and “The Eskimo,” we get some lively characters having fun at being bad and loving it. A lot of the ensemble performances through the film serve as a real support to the world building being done.
Coxman getting as far as he can on his own reaches out to his brother Brock aka “Wingman” (William Forsythe) whose own criminal past anchors them further into this seedy world. He gives Nels the rundown on the big bad of our story, Trevor aka “Viking” (Tom Bateman) a sly young Crime Boss with old-school tendencies and a comically repetitive high protein diet. This being the most exposition heavy portion of the movie served well to reign in the audience as a lot of blood has been spilled and storylines been built. Even though some clever body counts are displayed throughout, with the hit or miss pacing of the film it was necessary to get everyone back on track.
Alongside our A-story of Coxman’s revenge.
Say that 5 times fast!
We have a co-parenting mess of a drama between “Viking” and his ex with their young son. A couple of standout tandems amidst the bad guys; one intergenerationally and the other homosexually. A new to the force lady cop trying to find some action with her old partner in a town seemingly without any. And, the group of native American gangsters caught in the middle of the whole ordeal out for blood after their leader’s (White Bull) son was killed in a wrongful retaliation at the hands of “Viking” and his goons. Again, the world building is really fun and what sells the story is the commitment of these performers to the movie they’re in and achieving the right tone. I wish someone would’ve got the memo to Liam Neeson, as increasingly throughout the movie he’s brought along his particular set of skills from “Taken” that weren’t wholly appropriate and ended up taking itself way too seriously. There were moments that were missed because of Neeson’s lack of comedic timing and understanding of the script as well.
Back to the script. The movie is climaxed by a kidnapping of “Viking’s” son as the linchpin to getting close enough to kill him. Everyone vying for the kid, a crazy mix of friend and foe, good old Coxman is the man to get to him first and the showdown takes place on his turf back at the snow plow yard we he can deliver on the promise of the set piece.
Insert- nonsensical tree skewer of a Tesla-
In true Neeson fashion he gets his man and with barely a scratch on him.
The script is enjoyable and comes close to really bringing something fresh to the screen. However, if your familiar with the original movie, “In order of Disappearance” starring Stellan Skarsgard as our snow plow man with a pension for bloodlust, you’ll realize the lack of innovation really on display. Unfortunately, we have not only a more than 50% shot for shot remake but also in its script. Lines written shockingly the same. Kind of a shame really. You put together a more than capable cast, Americanize the script only to end up with few punchier exchanges in dialogue but nothing more. In comparing the trailers to one another it’s that much more glaring and leads you to wonder why not really go for it. If half the work was already done, go for the gusto and elevate the genre to be the new Fargo, or the new Pulp fiction. While we’re at it, let’s not only change up the script but let’s do something crazy with casing.
Controversy aside and that was more after the fact; Neeson wasn’t the greatest call for this movie. Yes, his movie star name is still very bankable but the actor to really bring out the manic, the sorrow filled, the bloodshot terror, would’ve been Nicholas Cage. Just imagine the hysteria you got with Cage in “Mandy” but ratchetted up to explore a psychosis in a Cage Coxman to handle the tone of this movie appropriately and strengthen the overall performance of the film. With this type of movie, you’ll have your throw in disposable characters but that should never have been in the form of Coxmans wife. Laura Dern was waisted in this movie, unexplainably unloving and caps her frigidness with a “I’m leaving letter” that (like her character) says absolutely nothing.
Although the overall production felt stunted comparatively to its predecessor and has some tone and timing misfires from its lead, “Cold Pursuit” has many stand out performances, entertaining dialogue, fun plot, on brand editing and score; you have the fun you’d expect to, with an opportunity for a continued story that will be even better received with a little more dark and a little more comedy.
KOLBYTOLDME RATING- 7/10
Director: Hans Petter Molland
Writers: Frank Baldwin
Starring: Liam Neeson, Laura Dern, Tom Bateman, Emmy Rossum
Run Time: 119 mins