By Christian DiMartino
I’m a few days late in reviewing Cold Pursuit, which is a bummer, because perhaps my rave review might have saved it from box-office failure. I’m sure the film failed for a few reasons, and maybe one of them is that people have this idea in their head that once they’ve seen one Liam Neeson action fest, they have seen them all. Well I have seen Cold Pursuit for myself, and I can assure you: you haven’t.
Cold Pursuit perhaps isn’t a textbook example of a great film, but it’s one that I sort of loved. It’s the kind of film in which you go into it expecting something, and for the most part you get that something. Yet it’s a film that has other really interesting, hilarious things to offer that you might not suspect. In short: it’s a blast.
This time Neeson plays Nels, a well respected snow plower in a Colorado town named Kehoe. Something tells me that this place isn’t real, and it is probably too freezing to live in, but it is beautiful to look at. Anyway, Nels leads a peaceful existence with his wife (Laura Dern, underused) and is known for being just a nice guy.
His peaceful existence is shook up though following the death of his son, who is found dead from a heroin overdose. Nels knows better than that though, claiming that his son wasn’t a “druggie.” So soon Nels is off to find the shady criminals his son was involved in, with the body count doubling along with the ludicrousness.
This sounds like the kind of movie Neeson could do in his sleep. After his last one, The Commuter, I got a sense of fatigue. Neeson has always been a very watchable actor, particularly in these kinds of movies. But you can only do this schtick for so long, and that’s the beauty of Cold Pursuit: this time, he’s switched it up.
Cold Pursuit, in some ways, can seem like a homage to the films that Neeson has dabbled with for the past 10 years. The beauty of casting Neeson as an action hero is that not only is he super-cool, but the man can also act, because he was an actor before he was an action hero. Yet while it can feel like a homage, it also, in its own strange, dark, morbid way, can feel like a parody.
Cold Pursuit, on more than one occasion, is hilarious. What’s funny about this film wouldn’t be funny in reality, but this is the kind of film that acknowledges its silliness, owns it, and isn’t ashamed of it. It knows just what it is, and it has a ball with it. And so did I. Half Neeson revenge thriller, half mobster parody, it’s a film that’s weirdly successful at both throughout.
Neeson of course has his fun here. Emmy Rossum also gets a few funny lines here as a local cop. Yet perhaps the best performance has to be from the main villain, played by Tom Bateman. Bateman’s Viking is the kind of character that should make you quiver; a ruthless druglord who should terrify anyone in his path. Yet he’s a total dork and a wuss who pretty much pretends that he’s the real deal, and everyone around him just kind of goes along with it.
Cold Pursuit, I’m assuming, is for a particular audience. An audience with a pretty bleak sense of humor. Considering the ending of this film still had me laughing on the drive home, I’d assume that I am part of that audience.