Cold Pursuit: Laughing in Cold Blood

In Cold Pursuit, Nels Coxman (Liam Neeson) lives a quiet life as a snowplow driver in the harsh winter conditions of Denver, Colorado. However, his simple existence comes crashing to a halt when his son dies under suspicious circumstances. As he seeks out the truth, he soon set out for vengeance against a psychotic drug lord named Viking (Tom Bateman)?and his sleazy henchmen. As his quest turns violent, Coxman sets off a chain of events that includes a kidnapping, a series of deadly misunderstandings and a turf war between drug lords.

Directed by Hans Petter Moland, Cold Pursuit?is an English language remake of his own film, In Order of Disappearance. Transporting the location from Norway to Denver, and substituting Stellan Skarsgard for Liam Neeson, Pursuitis a dark thriller with comic sensibilities. There is something unique about the film?s tone as each death is treated somewhat playfully, with epitaphs limited to the character?s mob nicknames and pop music played joyfully in the background. As the vengeful (but ?citizen of the year?) Coxman, Neeson parodies the types of characters that gave him a career resurgence in recent years, as he energetically clears a path through the mob as his plow does the snow-covered roads.

What?s more, the film?s brutal weather conditions and landscape parallel beautifully the viciousness of the crime syndicate that reaches across the territory. Despite its scenic background, this is a land of harshness and cruelty. The snow is relentless and the traveling treacherous. The police are largely ineffective, simply allowing the law to be overlooked. This is a male-dominated world where women are largely ignored and those that offer grace are considered weak. (In fact, the only woman that garners respect from her peers is the one who uses her sexuality to get the information she needs from a male informant before pushing him aside.) In this world, justice is ?eye for an eye? (or, if you will, ?a son for a son?).

Yet, somehow, in the midst of this, Coxman is a sympathetic character. Like many of Neeson?s characters, Coxman is an everyman who is simply pushed too far after the loss of his son. Though he?s willing to kill out of vengeance (after all, he read about it in a crime novel), we also see a side of him that is genuine and nurturing. He is a man who simply wants himself and his family to be left alone, after justice is service of course. There is little space for hope in this barren land, unless it comes at the end of a gun. In other words, this representation of Denver is a picture of what happens when darkness is permitted to run rampant.

While the film has moments that work, Pursuit?largely seems unclear on what it wants to accomplish. Though it has been compared to the work of Tarantino or Elmore Leonard, Pursuit?s sense of humour just seems to miss its mark for a North American audience. (Are mobsters discussing a dog?s bowel movements considered hilarious? Or a child referencing ?Stockholm Syndrome? while lying innocently in bed with his kidnapper?) While Neeson excels in the role of everyman?s hero, he struggles to underline the humour in this type of world. Maybe something gets lost in translation but it?s for this reason that Pursuit?largely left me cold.


Cold Pursuit?is in theatres on February 8th, 2019


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