Starring Liam Neeson, Tom Bateman, Tom Jackson, Emmy Rossum, Domenick Lombardozzi. Directed by Hans Petter Moland.
There is a tradition of taking films not in the English language and remaking them for an American audience. Generally, a new director takes over, but sometimes the original director comes aboard to remake their own film in English. Funny Games was made twice by Michael Haneke, and then there was also the case of John Sluizer remaking Spoorloos as The Vanishing. Now, Hans Petter Moland remakes his film In Order of Disappearance (which starred Stellan Skarsgard).
The story is that snowplough driver and citizen of the year Nelson ‘Nels’ Coxman turns to violent action when his son is murdered in a conspiracy involving warring gangsters.
So far, so Liam Neeson thriller. The problem is that Moland is also somewhat making a jet black comedy, which doesn’t fit with the stoic one man army thing that Neeson is doing. Cold Pursuit is a mixed bag, and not much good to be honest. Neeson once again looks bored of this sort of thing, stuck doing the same thing he’s done before, he’s a talented actor, and when not making an idiot of himself by talking about racial vengeance that has no business being discussed before a frankly lightweight thriller, he is a proper actor with dramatic weight.
The film falls into a problem a lot of revenge thrillers do which is that they try to portray the average guy pushed to extreme violence, and yet, Neeson is an actor who you know can fight so even when he says he has no formal training, he comes with a baggage. It doesn’t help that he makes the leap to vicious violence incredibly quickly and without any issue. Unlike if the film had starred Tom Hanks, someone we never see committing acts of vicious violence, this time we know Neeson can do the things he’s going to do.
The problem is also that Neeson is in one film, a straight forward revenge thriller in which he shoots, stabs and murders his way through a bunch of baddies, but the rest of the film is a different story. The two warring crime syndicates are drawn from different movies. Tom Bateman appears to be doing a spot on impression of Heath Ledger’s Joker, and his manic crew of often hapless villains come across a Fargo-like (it doesn’t help that the snow drenched setting calls to mind the film also). While the Native American element is an interesting bent but is ultimately underused.
Worst of all the female members of the cast are wasted frequently and cruelly. Emmy Rossum, Julia Jones and Laura Dern are all talented performers but relegated to bit parts with little to do, trying to bring dramatic weight to comic skits or humour to darker moments, there’s nothing in their performances that warrants the talents they have appeared to gotten for them.
In the end Cold Pursuit is a footnote in the Neeson career and doesn’t bode well for Moland’s Hollywood career either, neither of them come out of the film looking like they had fun or even cared about the project, and due to it’s unfocussed and messy plotting and tone the film falls apart when it could have been an interesting story about an upstanding citizen becoming violent. Had it explored the psychology of that, what acts of aggression and violence do to a normal everyday person (even with jet black humour) that could have been something more. It is however, along with Oldboy and Death Wish, a remake that we just didn’t need, and will soon be forgotten.