Mention Liam Neeson to just about anyone, and they will get an impression of a guy not to be messed with. And maybe the phrase “I will find you, and I will kill you” will play through their heads, in Neeson’s signature voice no less. So what do we have here? Cold Pursuit. That sounds an awful lot like a mash up of The Grey and Taken.
If you have been watching movies with Neeson in the leading role for a while, you will more or less have a rough idea of what the story is about. No matter how subdued the personality of his characters might seem at first, he will almost always end up snapping necks or putting bullet holes into the villains.
In Cold Pursuit, Neeson’s character is a snowplower by the name of Nels Coxman. Snow what you asked? Mind you that I’m not familiar with that word either. But you can certainly see Coxman maneuver a huge machine to clear away snow for the road users of Kehoe (a fictional town in Colorado) on a daily basis. Yeah, I feel you too, what a boring and unbefitting character for Neeson.
Coxman lives a quiet life with his wife, Grace (Laura Dern) and got so dedicated in his career up until the point that he was awarded Kehoe’s Citizen of The Year. Well, if you know Liam Neeson, you would have known that Cox wouldn’t stay that way for long. Things go for a drastic change when his son, Kyle (Micheál Richardson) is murdered and all the trails lead to a drug cartel. Not the best of first acts, but hey, who’s gonna complain about the stale intro of a Liam Neeson film, anyway.
I was anticipating for a much darker side of Cold Pursuit as the screen-time ticked. Did it steer towards that direction? Yes, things get bloody as Coxman uncovers more clues of the organization running in the background of Kehoe. Like, really bloody. Did it get interesting? Not quite.
For such a plot that holds so much potential as a massive stage for heart-stopping action sequences, Cold Pursuit does seem to go downhill the closer it gets to the end credits. The introduction truly hints a massive amount of conflict, even more so as Coxman starts to get his feet wet within the circle of this deadly organization (which never appears to be that terrifying after all), or so I thought. But, instead of relying on Coxman’s deadly skills and instinct (which never happened), the plot summons an army of drama and third party involvement to plow its way towards the ending.
Yes, as the story flips through the pages, more and more characters and groups barge into the screen like those strangers you found at your parties who were never even invited. Pretty cop-Old cop duo. That long-lost brother living in his cool life. Mysterious hitman. Male bodyguards in love with each other. And Red Indians. Alright, I am exhausted.
If you are used to great, entertaining films that tell you a lot about little, you’re bound to get shocked by Cold Pursuit. For the former, let’s just get some examples from Neeson’s recent works. The Commuter (2018) tells you a story about an insurance guy who is fighting to get out of a murder conspiracy within his usual commute. Non Stop (2014) focused on the events during a plane hijack and ends even before the plane touches ground.
Cold Pursuit? It’s just the extreme opposite, it tries to tell you a little about a lot. The coverage is so wide that it spans across elements like revenge, OCD parenting, drug turf, racism, homosexual relationship, old-cop vs new-cop, child custody, sacrificing for love, hitman for hire, and perhaps everything in between. The only missing part? The dedication or the ability of the plot to compel you with any one of the things mentioned above. That just doesn’t exist.
And unfortunately, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It seems that in the middle of the heat up conflict in the fictional Colorado town, Neeson’s usual trademark of a gun-slinging, bone-breaking alter ego was frozen and lost within that snowy backdrop. Yes, some of the scenes do choke you with massive, massive amounts of blood. But they all look so abstract without any good action-choreography to boot.
All this data is effortlessly pointing towards my conspiracy theory for Cold Pursuit; Neeson was just taking a stroll in the park in Cold Pursuit. In his other films, within certain scenes you can really see the demanding action choreography testing the physical limits of the aging Neeson. Yes, it is not exactly a pleasurable sight, but instead, it’s a heartbreaking one. Fans have to accept the reality that Neeson is moving away from his physical prime, and his days as action heroes like Bryan Mills might be numbered. But, at the very least, those very scenes tried to being out the best of Neeson, and that alone is worth my salute.
On the contrary, he can be seen pointing his gun a couple of times and landing some punches in Cold Pursuit, and that’s about it. The truth is, the word pursuit in the title really got me scratching my head during the end of the film. Just where the heck is that ‘pursuit’ thing in the entire movie?!
Elsewhere, as with the story, most of the dialogue in the film is pretty scattershot. No doubt that some are clearly written with audience laughter in mind, but the tasteless execution placed them galaxies away from being funny, if at all. Together with the silly ‘fade-to-black, name-of-the-recently-died-appears’ routine and the out of place scores which I swear were plucked directly from a Sherlock Holmes film, it seems to be very little planning involved in the writing.
Though I usually appreciate films that pack substantial running times, there are strong signs that the over-stretched 2 hours worth of screen time got the writer burned out of ideas and direction in this one. It must be during the middle of the night when the writer was over exhausted that he suddenly decided, “Hey, why not we insert a scene of Red Indian drug dealers playing with snow like little children in a ski resort?! It will be brilliant!”
Aside from being an obvious Tesla advert, Cold Pursuit is an avalanche of mess, minus any cold-blooded action or hot-headed pursuit. It tries to be funny in far too many occasions where it shouldn’t, and fails to be menacing in those crucial moments for the story to be taken seriously. Perhaps the only funny moment of Cold Pursuit is the one when the audience finally realize that it is a black comedy film — The Film Addict
*This review was originally published on The Film Addict