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Neeson’s latest revenge thriller misfires

Cold Pursuit, a comedy-cum-thriller set in icy wastes, almost defies pigeonholing with its scatter-gun approach

21 February, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

Liam Neeson in the Colorado mountains as Nels Coxman in Cold Pursuit

COLD PURSUIT
Directed by Hans Petter Moland
Certificate 15
☆☆

THE knockout stars of this Liam Neeson vehicle are the Colorado mountains. They loom over the fragile behaviour of the players with a solidity that just makes this film’s already flimsy plot feel even more featherweight. Their brooding presence peers at the action and makes it seem even smaller, even more inconsequential, than it already is.

Nels Coxman (Neeson) drives whopping great eight-wheeled, caterpillar-tracked machines through the snowfalls of Colorado, keeping towns and settlements accessible.

His enjoyment of his work comes across like a toddler playing with a toy truck, and we are treated to lots of crunching gears, snow being shot out of funnels, ploughs cleaving ways and lots of shots of him handling massive spanners in a garage workshop any fan of Top Gear would drool at.

Nels’ son Kyle (Micheál Richardson) is a baggage handler at the Kehoe airport, a small airfield that mainly brings in winter sports enthusiasts – and is also used by a drug-smuggling operation.

Kyle is bumped off for being mates with another worker who pinches a bag of cocaine from the smugglers – and so Nels sets out to wreak murderous revenge on whoever was responsible for his son’s death.

The freshly cleared road leads to two drug gangs – one run by Viking (Tom Bateman), a super-rich smoothie who hates his ex-wife, bullies his child and is always surrounded by unlikely mobsters.

The other is made up of Native Americans, led by White Bull (Tom Jackson), who are uncomfortable business partners with Viking’s mob. Nels has the job of cleaving his way through both camps as he seeks some kind of closure over his son’s death.

What is this film trying to be? A Coen brothers dark comedy, with a whiff of Fargo about it (there are two cops who bumble in and out, and look like they are pastiches of stock Coen characters)? A violent revenge thriller, similar to Neeson’s Taken series? A macho shoot ’em up? A quirky comedy? I have no idea, having spent much of the film bamboozled by the sub-plots, frowning curiously at the attempted jokes, and the use of screen break postcards that pop up when a character pops off.

There must be a special sub-genre of film that stars Liam Neeson as a disgruntled Ordinary Joe, out to wreak murderous revenge on some hoodlums who have done him wrong. He has made so many of them.

One of this film’s snowy boots is firmly in that camp – but the other is placed in a post-Tarantino adolescent black comedy nightmare, where men all have oddball nicknames, an unquenchable lack of respect for life and women … and then a quirk that is a substitute for any semblance of character.

Cold Pursuit almost defies pigeonholing, such is its scatter-gun approach. The only sure-footed thing about this comedy-cum-thriller set in icy wastes is the fact it has a very high body count.

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