Film review: Cold Pursuit (2019), directed by Hans Petter Moland
tl;dr: An unexpectedly enjoyable Liam Neeson revenge black comedy.
A while back I fancied watching a film. Of the ones I was choosing between Cold Pursuit didn’t sound like one I’d be interested in, because oh yay, another Liam Neeson revenge flick? Ugh. Two hours seemed too much of a commitment for that, but I thought I’d watch the trailer, and … sold! Instead of a bog-standard revenge film, it turned out to be a black comedy! My favourite!
So, Kehoe’s Citizen of the Year is the snowplough man Nels Coxman (Liam Neeson). He lives a quiet and unassuming life keeping the roads clear of snow. One day his son (Micheál Richardson, a.k.a. Neeson’s actual son) is found dead, having overdosed on drugs. His wife (Laura Dern) leaves him, and Nels is on the brink of suicide when he learns that his son was in fact murdered – but who by, and why?
Traces seem to lead to Trevor “Viking” Calcote (Tom Bateman), an unhinged drug lord in nearby Denver, so Nels sets out to enact his revenge, one henchman at a time. Only thing is, Viking believes the disappearances of his crew to be the work of criminal rival White Bull (Tom Jackson), so it all gets very dark/violent/funny from there.
Small town cops Kim (Emmy Rossum) and Gip (John Doman) are mostly used to busting skiing tourists for drug possession on a slow day (i.e. every day), but now it seems like they have a big city turf war in their quiet mountain resort town.
Cold Pursuit is based on a 2014 Norwegian film called Kraftidioten (In Order of Disappearance in English). I should very much like to see it, but at present the only option seems to be dubbed into English, which is suboptimal. I’ll still give it a go, though, as I really want to see it to see how it compares. (UPDATE July 2021: It wasn’t dubbed after all, it was subtitled! Surprisingly, I found Cold Pursuit to be better by miles.)
I guess it’s a film similar to Fargo, but I haven’t seen that film for an undisclosed number of years, so not sure how accurate that is. The dialogue isn’t as sizzling as a Martin McDonagh or Quentin Tarantino, but there are some really funny bits in there for sure. There were several instances where I laughed out loud, even on a second viewing.
I love the characters in this. There’s Aya (Julia Jones), Viking’s former wife, trying to get sole custody of their son Ryan (Nicholas Holmes) for a lot of very good reasons. Then there’s Ryan himself, a precocious kid who would probably prefer to have a dad who doesn’t freak out over a henchman kindly putting chocolate chip cookies in his packed lunch. It’s like everyone is a better parent to that kid than his actual dad.
This includes Viking’s henchmen! They might not get a lot of time to show us who they are, but shout-out to Dexter (Benjamin Hollingsworth) who manages a lot in a short space of time, and Mustang (Domenick Lombardozzi), who is surprisingly sympathetic for a senior enforcer. If I was ever in the market for an enforcer, I mean, I know who I’d pick! Although admittedly, yes, he’s why the film made my to-watch list in the first place. (I don’t tend to seek out Liam Neeson revenge films, no.) Saying that, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of screen time he got, and the amount of characterisation. Plus I really liked the film, so in the “catching up on New Favourite Actor’s filmography” stakes, this is a solid win.
When I posted about it on Instagram I said I’d watch it again – and I already have. I like my black comedies dark, I love it when they have good characterisation and great lines (although not as many memorable ones in this, sadly), and this film delivers. It’s not fast-paced, but it fits with the peaceful, snowy location. I will heartily recommend it to anyone that’ll listen.
4 out of 5 Cleveland Browns.