Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Review: Cold Pursuit

Cold Pursuit
Cert: 15 / 119 mins / Dir. Hans Petter Moland / Trailer

Since first seeing the publicity material for Hans Petter Moland's Cold Pursuit (an English-language remake of his own 2014 film, Kraftidioten), I have become convinced that this an entry is an under-the-radar series of prequel-era Star Wars tie-in adventures. Frozen in carbonite as part of an undercover Jedi mission, Qui-Gon Jinn's subconscious plays out a life in another world, where the snowy terrain and mortal danger are psychological projections of his in-universe surroundings. Sounds ridiculous? Of course it does. Until you bear in mind that Obi-Wan Kenobi cropped up in the TV version of Fargo and Mace Windu had his own Big Game. That's my theory anyway, and you're going to have to work pretty damned hard to change my mind.

I digress...

In the snow-blown town of Kehoe, high in the Colorado Rockies, snowplough driver Nels Coxman (Liam Neeson) tries his best to live a quiet, if gruelling, existence with his wife Grace (Laura Dern). When their son Kyle (Michael Eklund) becomes mixed up in the business of drug-lord Trevor 'Viking' Calcote (Tome Bateman), he ends up as cold on a mortuary slab as the weather outside. Directionless but with a sense that some reaction needs to be implemented, Nels embarks on a methodically escalating spree of revenge, exposing the extent of the local narcotics network and putting noses out of joint accordingly. This will not end well...


Adverse publicity aside, one of the main struggles faced by Cold Pursuit is that it's a Liam Neeson revenge-thriller. Hardly the first one of those in his repertoire and probably not the last, either. It is, however, markedly different from his usual dour-faced fare in that Frank Baldwin's screenplay has a blackly comic seam running throughout.

This is both the film's blessing and its curse, as many of the cast members aren't just playing things deadpan, they're playing them completely straight - which doesn't always work. First and foremost in this list is Neeson himself, who can do comedy with the right direction, but it's just not quite matching up to the potential in Moland's vision.


Make no mistake, Liam is on solid form (even keeping his non-regional-specific American growl under control) but as much as it pains me to say it, he's not quite right for this role. Even at his best, you've seen this performance before. What's needed is someone with a bit more unhinged, wildcard flare, like Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson or even Kurt Russell.

The screenplay's marrying of gleeful violence and straight-faced humour initially brings with it overtones of the Coen Brothers' work, of course. But it slowly becomes apparent that in remaking this for The Hollywood Machine, there are also aspirations to Tarantino levels of kooky slickness. This never manifests fully as the characterisation just isn't there, and after a while the film becomes closer to something of Martin McDonagh or Guy Ritchie's gangster-canon. Although with new characters still being introduced half-way through rather than set up at the start of the film, Moland can't match those levels of enjoyable silliness either.


Around an hour in, the film almost seems to forget that Neeson is its central character, pootling off for extended periods into the snow with the gangsters. At a minute under two hours this is hardly A Long Movie, but these pacing issues mean it starts to feel weightier than it should.

On-screen captions helpfully mark off the various underworld players as they're despatched from the story. But instead of steadily building to a crescendo, more hoodlums arrive to be picked off at the same steady rate, meaning we're never quite sure how much longer there is to go as long as Liam's still around. The crescendo is worth the wait, but by that point the ending writes itself.

Quietly funny and full of the types of characters it's satisfying to see the end of, Cold Pursuit is a diverting enough ride which will be good for a few late night passes. But its uneven nature means the film’s long-term appeal may be limited...

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Well it's more Seven Psychopaths than Snatch but with elements of both without being quite as good as either.

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
It is.

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
It is.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Well, let's not get carried away.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
It's possible, I suppose, depending on how set against it you are.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Qui-Gon Jinn has settled down and married Amilyn Holdo in this.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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