By: Ben Bennett
Cold Pursuit once again reminded me that you cannot justify a film by its title, no matter how mundane that title may be. Directed by Hans Petter Moland, a Norwegian director, Cold Pursuit is based on Moland’s original Norwegian movie, In Order of Disappearance, released in 2014. Starring Liam Neeson as a snow plow driver, the story of Cold Pursuit is one of the age-old tales of revenge. Neeson’s son is killed by a drug dealer in Denver, which causes Neeson to start to plot out his path for vengeance. Now I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, so I’ll try and do my best to keep plot details out of this review, but to say the least, I was extremely surprised by Cold Pursuit.
Initially going into the movie I thought it was going to be just another “Liam Neeson action movie”, like another take on the Taken franchise or another Non-Stop / The Commuter. However, I was pleasantly surprised by Cold Pursuit. Off the bat, if you are expecting Liam Neeson to be a highly trained vigilante ex-cop taking out scores of henchmen, this is not your kind of movie. This starts with the same beats as Neeson’s other recent works, but once you get past around the fifteen-minute mark the movie turns into something else entirely. Once Neeson starts hunting guys in this gang the movie becomes much more artistic. Not to say that this movie has a super independent feel, but it does have elements that show off the capability of Moland as a director. For example, once people are killed in this movie something shows on screen for a couple seconds, which I thought was very interesting, but I don’t want to spoil it for you. The cinematography looks very good in this movie, from the way the mountains and snowy areas are shot to the intense action.
As for the action, it is not what you are expecting from a Liam Neeson movie. It is not full of shaky cam and jump cuts to conceal the lack of choreography. However, much of the violence happens off-screen. One may see Neeson punching a guy, with the camera at Neeson’s face, and it never shows the victim until the very end. So you will end up seeing the result of the action, but not the action in action. Some people may be turned off by this style, but I thought that it added to the style of the movie. Sometimes the action will be set up and then the screen will cut to black, leaving it up to the viewer’s imagination. This works not only stylistically but also comedically. It is like telling a joke; the comedian will tell the setup and then deliver the punchline. The same goes for the movie, except the punchline is usually murder. Speaking of comedy, Cold Pursuit is much more humorous than I thought it was going to be. While most of the comedy is not laugh out loud funny, being more of dark humor, it still creates this very light tone in the movie, a tone you would likely not expect from a movie about a father trying to avenge his son’s death.
Although the movie was very enjoyable, there were some downfalls to the movie. Firstly, Laura Dern, a very talented actress, is in this movie… for about fifteen minutes. She is highly underutilized, in my opinion, in this film; however, I do understand the director’s point of view as she was not really necessary to the story and would have added little contribution. I just thought it would have been exciting to have more of her in the film. In addition to this, as stated previously, the first fifteen to twenty minutes had me a little worried, as they play out just like any standard action /revenge movie. I would have appreciated it more if the director had taken the same amount of time and care as he did with the rest of the movie in the opening minutes. Other than that I had very little complaints.
Overall, I thought that Cold Pursuit was a very enjoyable film. It had great directing, performances from both Neeson and the supporting cast, as well as providing an interesting take on an almost tired out genre of revenge tales. Even the theme that plays in the background of some scenes was intriguing, almost sounding Tarantino-esque. I would recommend seeing Cold Pursuit and I think it is well worth the price of admission. Rating: A-