Cold Pursuit (2019)
Cold Pursuit (2019)

Genre: Crime Comedy and Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 58 min.

Release Date: February 8th, 2019 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Hans Petter Moland Actors: Liam Neeson, Laura Dern, Tom Bateman, Emmy Rossum, John Doman, William Forsythe, Domenick Lombardozzi, Julia Jones, Tom Jackson

 


 

W

hen Nels Coxman’s (Liam Neeson) son Kyle (Micheal Richardson) is murdered by drug dealers, his life is turned upside down. The snow plow driver quickly transforms from ski-resort town Kehoe’s “citizen of the year” to cold-blooded killer who will stop at nothing to find those responsible for his son’s demise. Starting with low-level pushers with nicknames like “Speedo” and “Santa,” Coxman soon works his way up the ladder to discover that hotshot Denver nightclub owner and big-time drug kingpin Trevor “Viking” Calcote (Tom Bateman) was behind the murder. But getting to the gangster becomes even more complex when Viking’s hasty retaliations bring a rival group of mobsters, led by White Bull (Tom Jackson), into the foray.

A witty opening quote by Oscar Wilde instantly sets a tone for “Cold Pursuit” – and it’s one that isn’t a normal accessory for Liam Neeson’s recent string of action-packed revenge flicks. Cheery music further assists the events to come, which momentarily revert back to Neeson’s expected modus operandi, with his man-of-few-words routine and a sudden burst of violence, before once again mining humor from unanticipated places. Fighting against the morbidity of a morgue identification is a comical exchange (one that might be inappropriate in anything but a hokey look at crime and vigilantism), followed by additional humor in an attempted suicide, before crescendoing to laughs in physical assault and, ultimately, murder. Despite these reprieves from the seriousness of the traumas of losing a child, Neeson soon sets about collecting names and demanding answers. “Tell me how to find this guy! Where is he!”

The primary antagonist is a misstep, considering how much time is devoted to his character development. It’s enough to see him use “Lord of the Flies” as a parenting tool, or to hurl his child’s cookies out the window, but these droll moments are just the beginning; Viking gains so much screentime to execute opponents, mistreat his ex-wife (and lecture his precocious boy, whose disparity stretches to exceptional calmness, trustingness, and a love of Bach), curse the disappearance or insubordination of his men, and chat about such trivial things as his donations to his son’s school. He’s in the frame so often, audiences will start to wonder when Nels will turn up again.

Unfortunately, this misplaced focus on supporting roles extends to the film’s overabundance of characters – many of which are bit parts, meaninglessly expanded for extra comic relief. But it merely drags out the running time, which hurts the pacing of everything else. Not only does Coxman have relatives, who have numerous speaking lines, but Viking has family members and henchmen (who additionally get to have conversations with other henchmen for running jokes), the rival gang has a boss with family members and henchmen, and the police officers (Emmy Rossum and John Doman) trying to sort out the accruing corpses have side-stories that involve plenty of dialogue. The authorities’ roles might just be the most extraneous, since their inclusion chiefly exemplifies the futility of investigative work in a turf war populated by conscienceless killers (themselves unaffected by consequences). Curiously, this carries over to Coxman as well, since one of his first victims is offed in broad daylight in an occupied shop, quite messily, with no attention paid to how he could have cleaned up the murder scene or removed the body without being noticed.

When the plenitude of characters isn’t muddying the thrills, a repetition takes over, duplicating the quirkiness of deaths (denoted by intertitles that resemble a checklist). The picture’s greatest accomplishment is unearthing humor from fatalities, many of which are mistakes brought about from misinformation or mislaid confidence in the “rules” of criminal conduct. But while “Cold Pursuit” boasts an impressive combination of over-the-top personas, they’re not well sorted out; as it pulls inspiration from the films of Guy Ritchie, the Coen Brothers, and Quentin Tarantino, it grows so convoluted and silly that it eventually just concludes, convinced that genuine resolutions won’t matter, since these characters couldn’t exist on any level of reality except for a comedic, blood-soaked, revenge fantasy.

– The Massie Twins

  • 5/10