Director: Hans Petter Moland
Starring: Liam Neeson, Tom Bateman, Laura Dern, Domenick Lombardozzi, John Doman, Emmy Rossum, Julia Jones, Tom Jackson, William Forsythe, Raoul Trujillo
Runtime: 118 minutes
Liam Neeson’s name has almost become synonymous with revenge ever since the Taken franchise took the world by storm. While the subsequent Taken 2 and Taken 3 weren’t anything to write home about, Taken was a film that took the revenge genre and boiled it down to the simplest form to create an enjoyable experience for audiences (and one that will live on through memes forever). I wouldn’t call it the best revenge film by a long shot, but it definitely set the bar for what audiences expect.
Like many others, when I saw the trailer for Cold Pursuit and saw Neeson as the star, I assumed we were getting another typical revenge/action tale using a familiar actor to sell the film more than anything else. What I got instead was a black comedy with the theme of revenge interwoven throughout.
Neeson plays Nelson Coxman, a snowplow driver living a quiet but fulfilling life in Colorado with his wife and son. All of this changes when his son dies of a heroin overdose; his wife leaves him and he is almost driven to suicide before going on a crusade of vengeance once he begins to learn there may have been foul play involved.
There are a few things that set Cold Pursuit apart from other action films in a similar vein. For one thing, the villains in the movie aren’t mysterious terrorists hiding in the shadows; from the very beginning, we follow the Viking (Tom Bateman) almost as much as Coxman. Seeing Coxman pick off the Viking’s organization one by one while also watching the Viking try to balance running a drug empire and raising his son (albeit in a bizarre fashion) makes for a more enjoyable narrative than just seeing one side of the story the whole film.
Another big part of Cold Pursuit that I didn’t expect going in was just how funny the film actually is. Sure, the film deals with dark subject matter throughout, but it maintains a level of twisted humor from the very beginning that makes it impossible not to laugh. Whether it’s watching the mortician slooooooowly raise the pallet that Coxman’s dead son is lying on or Coxman and one of the Viking’s associates Santa sharing a laugh together before Coxman kills him brutally, the film is full of black comedy that kept me laughing out loud. The theater I was in seemed to be a bit nervous to laugh in the beginning, but by the end of the movie, we were all cackling together at the ridiculousness (especially with the comedic scenes involving White Bull and his crew).
Cold Pursuit feels like Fargo met Taken and had a child together. While there were some issues I had with some of the narrative (Coxman’s ex-wife is basically a non-character, for one), there’s nothing in the film that takes away from the enjoyment I had watching this. The movie is beautifully shot (I’m already a sucker for snowy landscapes, but there are a lot of really incredible scenic shots throughout), and the action scenes are as brutal as you’d want from a movie like this. This is a film I highly recommend for fans of Neeson but also for those who want a change of pace from the traditional revenge flick.
When Fargo meets Taken, it leads to a darkly hilarious revenge story that takes us out of the January movie slump and into the new year proper.