“Liam Neeson” has become its own genre. Its own noun. It entails aging actors to become modern day action stars playing retired cops/hit men/secret agents/ex-special forces or any other character with deadly training that are forced out of said retirement to kick one form or another, of ass..
“Liam Neeson” on a plane…”Liam Neeson” on a train…”Liam Neeson” with amnesia… and of course, the place where it all started… “Liam Neeson” rescuing his kidnapped daughter with a particular set of skills.
But there are times when sub genres are created to freshen up the idea. Within the superhero genre, you have your “Avengers” and your “Logan”. In science fiction, you have your “Blade Runner” and your “Star Wars”. Romantic comedies can have their “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and their “There’s Something About Mary”. It’s necessary for any genre to expand and explore fresh avenues to survive.
With the “Liam Neeson” genre, you have your “Taken” and you have your “Cold Pursuit”.
If you take a close look at the poster with the actor standing tall and heroic while the villains look like their a second away from maniacally laughing and twiddling their fingers just as a big explosion appears to be erupting behind them, you would not be at fault for thinking that this is a another action packed movie of Neeson going one by one murdering all of those criminals. And although that does happen to some extent, this is not your typical “Liam Neeson” movie.
A dramatic black comedy with outbursts of violence. Double crossings, kidnappings, accidental killings and humorous brutality elevate its simple story with mayhem, mischief and murder that would fit a Coen Brothers film or Elmore Leonard novel.
The story follows everyman and snow plower Nils Coxman (Neeson) avenging his son’s death at the hands of local drug cartel after law enforcement ignores the case, as always happens in these films.
The movie is based on the 2014 Norwegian film “In Order of Disappearance”, with both films being directed by Hans Petter Moland. In fact, most scenes and lines of dialogue are directly lifted, with the biggest differences going to the actual language and some contextual changes to fit the new location.
Which brings one of its most interesting elements. Its villains. Or at least half of them. The introduction and examination of a Native American drug cartel operating in Colorado, allows the film to explore xenophobia and the mistreatment indigenous people have suffered, which in turn forced them to make a living as criminals.
Unfortunately, the other half of the bad guys side suffers because of this. It doesn’t mean they’re uninteresting. Watching Tom Bateman as the psychotic and slick drug lord Trevor “Viking” Calcote is fun, being a complete bastard and chewing all the scenery but is not as compelling as the native american story thread.
As for Neeson, although the protagonist, he is in it less than expected. However, he still delivers a nicely subdued comedic performance while also bringing the necessary emotional and dramatic weight of a father losing his child.
It’s nice to be reminded that he wasn’t always this action star having gone through great roles in the 90’s with Rob Roy, Michael Collins and Schindler’s List.
The film also makes great use of its location with some fantastic photography by Philip Øgaard, almost making you feel the bitter cold of the Colorado mountains through the screen and much more artistic feel to the movie with the editing of Nicolaj Monberg.
If there is any downfall to this is that the pacing can be a little slow on some places, occasionally taking its time to move the plot forward and some aspects of the story are a little far fetched.
“Cold Pursuit”s funny pitch black comedic tone is aided by a great artistic and quirky visual style, turning this into a unexpected little treat proving there is still fresh ground to be explored in this genre and reminding people that Neeson can still provide a very good performance which requires more than punching bad guys and growling threats at villains while punching bad guys and growling threats at villains.