Yes, we all know the jokes. Liam Neeson’s spiral into revenge thriller territory is one of the most meme-worthy things in film, except maybe John Travolta and Battlefield Earth. Starting with Taken and its, let’s be honest, dreadful sequels, the Irish actor has made a name for himself as the go-to guy to rough someone up after a spate of bad-luck.
He’s had kids killed, kidnapped and spouses murdered in cold blood, he’s even been framed for hijacking a jumbo jet – if anyone deserves a break, it’s Liam Neeson. Unfortunately, his films have ranged from great (Taken, Non-Stop), to middling (Run All Night, The Commuter), to downright dreadful (Taken 2, Taken 3) and that’s how the meme-worthiness was born. Nevertheless, Neeson is back for yet another revenge thriller in Cold Pursuit. But how does it stack up?
Nels Coxman’s (Neeson) quiet life as a snowplough driver comes crashing down when his beloved son (Micheál Richardson) dies under mysterious circumstances. His search for the truth soon becomes a quest for revenge against a psychotic drug lord named Viking (Tom Bateman) and his sleazy henchmen. Transformed from upstanding citizen to cold-blooded vigilante, Coxman unwittingly sets off a chain of events that includes a kidnapping, a series of deadly misunderstandings and a turf war between Viking and a rival boss called White Bull.
Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first. This is not a review biased by Neeson’s, shall we say, ill-worded rant on his former life. We all have our own opinions on the matter, but that should not detract from individuals going to see a movie in the cinema. In fact, Cold Pursuit is Neeson’s most accomplished film in years, helped by stylish directing from Swedish director Hans Petter Moland. It’s worth noting that Cold Pursuit is in fact a US remake of Swedish film, In Order of Disappearance and there’s a tasteful nod to the film’s roots in the end-credits.
With a dark, comedic edge, Cold Pursuit is as funny as much as it is gory and it is this hybridity of genres that remains the film’s trump card. The script, penned by Moland himself, is witty and sharp, filled with fantastic line-delivery by the entire cast who look like they’re having a cracking time. There are twists and turns and even a gay-romantic subplot – how very contemporary.
Apart from Neeson, Tom Bateman is an absolute stand-out as the film’s primary antagonist. Allowing him to be a presence in the film from the outset allows the audience to fully feel his character and there’s no doubt that he is a despicable human-being. Neeson performs in typical Liam Neeson fashion. He snarls and growls his way through the film but allows a softer side to creep in than we’re used to, helped in part by that comedic script.
Revenge thrillers rarely have the budget for flashy CGI or top-notch practical effects but Cold Pursuit is one of the better in the genre
It’s not perfect however. Laura Dern is a massively underused presence throughout and disappears completely from the film about 1-hour in with no other references to her character. This is a real shame as her chemistry with Neeson is good and they make a believable couple, especially when they’re dealing with the ramifications of their son’s death.
Dern continues to prove her acting prowess and it would have been nice to see her continue to be a feature throughout the film. The pacing is a little off too. At 118 minutes long, the film plods a little as it gets going and then doesn’t stop until the fun and entirely ridiculous finale.
However, it’s good to see the special effects are up to scratch for the genre. Revenge thrillers rarely have the budget for flashy CGI or top-notch practical effects but Cold Pursuit is one of the better in the genre. With a relatively modest budget of $60million, it appears that was well spent with clever editing and cinematography masking any less-than-stellar visuals.
Overall, Cold Pursuit is a fun, if forgettable revenge thriller that features some delicious dark comedy mixed with an intriguing story. It’s certainly Neeson’s best film since Non-Stopand marks a return to form for the Irish actor. Unfortunately, these type of flicks are ten-a-penny nowadays and I’m unsure whether snappy one-liners and beautiful snow-capped peaks are enough to differentiate it in a crowded marketplace.