What is worse than a bad film? A good film executed ineffectively. Early on Nels Coxman (played by Liam Neeson) states it well “When you drive the same road day after day, it’s easy to think about the road not taken. I was lucky, I picked a good road early and I stayed on it.” Coxman is correct, there is value in doing something simple, and simply well. Unfortunately for COLD PURSUIT, it forged off the well-worn path and got lost in the process.
An American remake of the the Norwegian film In Order of Disappearance by the same director Hans Petter Moland. Shortly after a local plowman in a sleepy snow-laden town is awarded citizen of the year, his life gets turned upside down with the devastating news that his son has died of a drug overdose. Soon after he gets evidence that confirms his suspicions – his son was murdered. What follows is set up to be a Taken-esk revenge thriller of increasing Tarantino style absurdity. Yet what we actually get is a jumbled thriller with key moments that are undercut by misplaced dark humor, and over stylized homages.
Whats most frustrating about COLD PURSUIT is you can see the film it could have been. Laid at its foundation is the simple fortitude of the main character reflected consistently in his interaction with the landscape around him. The struggle to maintain a thin tether to civilization against snow packed wilderness is paralleled with the story of a man trying to maintain his simple life amidst the corrosive forces of vengeance and greed. You see a story whose momentum starts with the representative visual of a blinking light on a road closed sign and picks up speed as Liam Neeson’s character life starts falling apart. Violent act after violent act leads to a domino effect of increasing chaos. A film that started slow and stoic spirals toward increasingly more laughable absurdity in the form of dark humor, driving home the larger message COLD PURSUIT tries to convey – that vengeance doesn’t work. What we actually get is a film that continually seems blind to its own emotional intentions, and is more concerned with its style than its own storytelling.
Yet in the end that is what is most frustrating about COLD PURSUIT, it comes close. Its dark humor is misplaced at moments it thinks are clever, undercutting the critical moments of tension. The over-stylized death scenes while fun at first, quickly become tiresome. This leaves viewers scratching their head as this “thriller” loses momentum before it even gains any.
COLD PURSUIT arrives in theaters February 8, 2019