All the trailers and advertising leading up to the release of this past weekend’s Cold Pursuit have made it seem like just another Liam Neeson action revenge movie but it turns out to be a lot quirkier and darkly humorous than any of his previous movies in his action renaissance.
Neeson stars as Nels Coxman, the main snowplow driver for Kehoe, a small ski resort town in the Rockies. When his son Kyle (Micheal Richardson) dies in Denver of an apparent overdose, Nils is ready to kill himself but finds out from one of Kyle’s associates, Dante (Wesley MacInnes) that he was actually killed by men working for Denver drug lord Viking (Tom Bateman) because Kyle and Dante stole some cocaine that Viking ships into the Kehoe airport. Nels starts to go after Viking’s men but inadvertently starts a chain of events that quickly escalates beyond his simple revenge. The movie starts like a fairly typical Neeson revenge movie a la Taken but it quickly turns into something more like Fargo, where numerous assumptions and rash actions cause bigger and worse things to happen for everyone involved and Neeson’s Nels also kind of transitions from the lead into just another member of the ensemble as more characters get involved, like Emmy Rossum’s Officer Kim Dash or local Native American drug lord White Bull (Tom Jackson) or William Forsythe as Brock, Nels’ brother who used to be in the crime game. There are lots of great, quirky bits of humor, including one right off the bat with an extremely awkward bit where the coroner has to use some sort of squeaky pump to raise the tray Kyle’s body is on at the morgue and there are whimsical title cards that come up every time someone is killed. Much like a Fargo or other Coen Brothers movie, the quirky humor and characters are juxtaposed with brutal violence, especially Nels’ first couple of kills.
Neeson is playing pretty much his usual action movie persona in Cold Pursuit, with just a slightly more out of his element exasperation around him. Tom Bateman is fine as the fussy and arrogant Viking but he seems to really be struggling to hide his British accent and I thought he was much better as the icy, smooth hitman Wilkes in Into the Dark’s The Body. It’s always great to see William Forsythe and Domenick Lombardozzi emerges as the most fleshed out and interesting of Viking’s goons, although all of them, and also White Bull and his men, all have at least some distinct personality. Emmy Rossum isn’t quite up to the level of Frances McDormand in Fargo but she’s fun in her excitement that real crime is happening in Kehoe and she has a great back and forth with her older partner Gip (John Doman), who is more concerned with Kim’s love life than doing any actual police work. The only person who gets really short shrift is Laura Dern as Nels’ wife Grace. Dern has literally nothing to do and is out of the movie completely with only about 5 minutes or so of screen time, so it’s baffling why someone of Laura Dern’s caliber was cast or why the character even exists.
If you are looking for just a straight forward Neeson revenge thriller, you may be slightly disappointed by Cold Pursuit but, having seen every Neeson action movie since 2009, I thought Cold Pursuit was a fun and quirky change of pace that feels more like a Neeson action movie kickstarts a Coen Brothers plot that’s full of interesting characters and dark humor.