Cold Pursuit (12A) | Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Hans Petter Moland, UK/Norway/Canada/US, 2019, 119 mins 

Cast:  Liam Neeson, Laura Dern, Tom Bateman, Emmy Rossum, Tom Jackson

Review by Carol Allen

This is an English language remake of Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland’s 2014 film In Order of Disappearance, which was a big box office hit despite being European and in a foreign language. 

Moland directs the remake, which sticks pretty close to the original but with a different scriptwriter – American Frank Baldwin – who has changed the European criminal gangs who feature in the story into Americans, one of whom is interestingly Native American.

Now transferred to the Rocky Mountains, the story concerns upright and law abiding citizen snow plough driver Nels Coxman (Liam Neeson).   However when his only son falls foul of a local drug baron Viking (Tom Bateman), Nels, whose only knowledge of crime comes from novels, decides to wreak his revenge and bump off the murderers.  It was Neeson’s explanation of how he drew on his own youthful experience to make this change of personality convincing, which landed him in a storm of controversy.  For Nels in the film it sparks off a war between Viking’s gang and a rival drug lord, native American White Bull (an impressive Tom Jackson).

Moland’s original Norwegian film was a wittily written black comedy whose title referred to the neat touch of the “latest dead man” titles, which pop up on the screen after each grisly murder – an idea he has retained for this remake.   And the body count in this tale is high.  The new film though doesn’t have quite the pace and wit of the original, which had a lighter and wittier touch.  It’s new setting and concept seems to rather pull it down.

Neeson is pretty much the good guy turned action man we’ve seen him play in many other movies. There are though some interesting characters among the bad guys.  Bateman as Viking, who looks a bit like Quentin Tarantino’s good looking younger brother, is a rather dumb sadist though doting father, who inflicts a health food diet on his small son Ryan (Nicholas Holmes).  Father/son relationships are a theme of the film – as well as this and the one between Nels and his son, which sets off the slaughter, there is more vengeance when the outwardly serene but ruthless White Bull loses his son to gun law and later in the film there is a rather sweet mock parental relationship between Nels and Ryan.

Moland and Baldwin have though wasted a good opportunity with the female characters, who are all potentially interesting but have far too little screen time.  Laura Dern as Nils’s wife, age appropriately cast for once, disappears from the story too soon.   Viking’s wife Aya (Julia Jones) is a real tough cookie, who literally has her estranged husband by the balls. There is also a determined young police officer on the trail (Emmy Rossum) whose investigation and potentially interesting relationship with her older male partner are very much sidelined from the main story.

Despite the violence this is a reasonably diverting piece of black comedy action.  More ersatz Tarantino cum Cohen Brothers though than the Billy Wilder homage Moland claims for the film.