Emotions are a complex thing…
While the revenge story is a tried and true cinematic narrative across the globe there are some elements that translate just a little bit differently. Director Hans Peter Moland makes his English language directorial debut by remaking is very own In Order of Disappearance and while the spirit remains intact some of the grim humor of the original just doesn’t translate very well.
Nels Coxman (Liam Neeson) is a family man whose quiet life with his wife (Laura Dern) is upended following the mysterious death of their son. Nels’ search for justice turns into a vengeful hunt for Viking (Tom Bateman), a drug lord he believes is connected to the death. As one by one each of Viking’s associates “disappear,” Nels goes from upstanding citizen to ice-cold vigilante, letting nothing and no one get in his way.
While it plays as an effective revenge thriller, the pacing of the awkward smirks and comedic beats that played so well in the original Norwegian version just never came across here.
In many ways this film really serves as a commentary on the recent oeuvre of Liam Neeson as a whole. In previous films, Neeson’s characters had a certain degree of swagger and a glint in their eye as he tries to do the right thing and exact revenge on his enemies to save the day, but this time that ‘joie de vivre’ isn’t there. This is the true nature of revenge, it’s joyless and nothing that is going on is really making the character feel all that better, it’s just that he can’t stop. He knows his son’s death was under false pretenses and he’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that all those responsible will pay an eye for an eye and blood for blood.
Moland matches the bleak nature of the landscape using Calgary as a double for outside of Denver, Colorado but the dark humor just doesn’t always work. In a foreign language, the dark comedic beats that any audiences outside of Norway would have had to read on the subtitles actually plays in a very morbid, macabre and entertaining fashion but hearing it in English in the suburbs and ski towns outside of Denver just doesn’t work. It’s possible that the first time script by Frank Baldwin who adapted it all from the original source screenplay by Kim Fupz Aakeson unfurled it all a little too literally as we do occasionally laugh and have a solid smirk but there’s more of a joyless feel to this revenge filled rampage and appropriately so. We’re allowed to appreciate the carnage and live vicariously through the rampage while still feeling kind of indifferent and maybe even bad about the whole thing.
Neeson is his grizzled stalwart self throughout the film but doesn’t have a lot of people or opportunities to play any kind of emotion on. Laura Dern is wasted as his wife while William Forsythe does get a couple of fun moments as his estranged brother with more connections to the underworld then Nels would care to admit. Tom Bateman chews up the scenery as our villain ‘Viking’ but he’s playing to a vacuum and while he certainly commands the screen, a little bit of back and forth that feels somewhat relevant to the overall narrative would be nice rather than us just having a villain delivering some colourful monologue type diatribes. Emmy Rossum meanwhile as a local cop curious to all the going’s on feels like a forced story device to keep it all moving rather than a character that is important to the story.
Ultimately, Cold Pursuit ranks a little differently on the Liam Neeson canon of revenge movies. While we get the mayhem and carnage that we expect from these films it’s also simultaneously taking the piss out of itself through some humor but by also having somewhat of a conscience making for a familiar yet odd affair.
- Release Date: 2/8/2019
- Directed by: Hans Peter Moland
- Starring: Liam Neeson
- Written by: Frank Baldwin
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