Cold Pursuit Movie Review

“Cold Pursuit” was directed by Hans Petter Moland. It was released Feb. 8, 2019 and grossed $14.7 million domestically.

Cold Pursuit”, an action thriller film starring Liam Neeson, is about a man seeking revenge after he suspects his son’s death was actually a murder. With this brief description of the movie I heard before watching it, I immediately thought of Liam Neeson’s “Taken” from 11 years ago, which is an action thriller where he seeks revenge in order to rescue his daughter. The film also obviously tries to draw ties with “Fargo,” a comedy action movie that takes place in the setting of the hostile cold, attempting to add a more human element to the action thriller. “Cold Pursuit” coalesces into a complex multi layered story centering around a drug war in the resort town of Kehoe.

The acting in this movie is nothing to scoff at, with a good performance from Neeson as the protagonist Nels Coxman, the snow plower who was nominated “Citizen of the Year” of his town. Nels becomes the man with nothing to lose, pursuing every gang victim or every opportunity he can get to find the man who’s responsible for his son’s death. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Tom Bateman plays Trevor ‘Viking’ Calcote and has an uncanny performance as a sadistic yet composed drug lord in the movie. Bateman is able to show Viking as a truly detestable person, creeping out the audience as his chaotic nature can make the audience fear for the lives of the people, even the ones Viking seems to befriend. Viking has a lot of character depth for a role in an action thriller movie and he is only one of the many colorful antagonists in Nels’ way. Although the movie initially seems to focus purely on Nels’ point of view, there are several unique groups in the movie all working toward their own objective, eventually leading to a conflict where all the parties are present.

The attempt at comedic elements plays a major role in the film, giving it a unique personality that is admirable and refreshing in a movie of this kind.

An example of this is a technique the movie uses where after a character dies, their name is displayed on a black screen along with their code name. After an absurd or comical death of a character, the film can use this tool for an abrupt cut into a solemn screen remembering the person with a religious symbol that represents the character’s faith or can even cut to this screen to symbolize that the character died. This coupled with running gags or characters that function as comedic relief without taking away from the plot; the comedic aspect resulting in being generally successful.

The major flaw “Cold Pursuit” has is finding its own identity as a film. The movie suffers in one facet because the protagonist Nels Coxman is generally one dimensional. He is a rage-fueled character seeking revenge for his son and doesn’t have much depth beyond this point. In a typical action thriller, this would be an OK thing for the protagonist to be afflicted with, but surrounded by other characters such as Viking or the later-revealed White Bull, Nels is a simple man and doesn’t have the development that other characters do. The other factor in the movie weakening its own identity is in tone. Although it was able to integrate elements of comedy into the film, the comedy was a less dark comedy and more slapstick. Whereas integrating dark comedy works perfectly in a movie like “Fargo,” the attempt to integrate more light-hearted humor into a movie where Neeson plays his character straight as a revenge-fueled killer, results in inconsistency in tone.

The two aspects of the film don’t mesh well, resulting in a film that seems like it doesn’t know its own identity, often not taking itself seriously when it seems like it should.

Overall, “Cold Pursuit” does a lot to differentiate the action thrillers Neeson has been doing a lot of in recent years, and this differentiation is generally more beneficial than harmful. This movie has a lot going on and the aforementioned flatness of Nels’ character and inconsistency of tone throughout the movie are negative factors, however, the interesting characters and variance of “Cold Pursuit” outweigh the negatives. I would recommend the film“Cold Pursuit” to people who are looking for an action thriller, but want it to have more personality and depth than what the genre’s current standards can offer.