I recently went to see Cold Pursuit at the cinema expecting another variation of Liam Neeson’s anthology of expert killing all the bad guys on a different mode of transport. In the decade since he reinvented himself as an unlikely action movie star, Neeson hasn’t had to do much in the way of acting. However, for once he’s not ex-CIA or Special Forces trained, just plain Nels Coxman an ordinary domesticated guy with a snowplough.
The early scenes suggest Cold Pursuit is going to be Taken 4 by another name as Nels’ trigger for mayhem is when another relative, this time his son, is murdered by the local drug cartel. Moments before he learns of his son’s death, Nels was inches from taking his on lifeThe story mirrors the original Norwegian 2014 film, having the same director Hans Petter Moland, but with the hero’s name changed from the slightly sillier Nils Dickman. Some may have picked up at the beginning from the character’s name that it was a black comedy, but for me, the penny didn’t drop until Nels disposes of the third body. I wasn’t expecting the humour that can be created from corpses wrapped in chicken wire. As it turns out, there is much dark humour to be mined from this scenario.
The action takes place in and around Kehoe, a fictional small Colorado town on the edge of the Rockies, where Nels has just been awarded citizen of the year for keeping the roads clear with his snowplough. He must be the only snowplough driver in history to win such an award. A backcloth of mountains gave Moland the opportunity for some great cinematography and the results are really quite stunning. The drug cartel is run by Trevor Calcote who goes by the nickname of Viking. Each one of his dealers also has a nickname, which appears on screen once they meet their demise.
After Santa, his third henchman goes missing Viking is convinced it’s the work of the Indian drug cartel based in Denver, headed up by White (powder) Bull whose people are also known by their nicknames. Thus war between the two factions breaks out beginning with tit-for-tat and culminating in an Armageddon level showdown. Although the showdown is violent in the extreme, it’s not totally bereft of humour as Nels comes up with a most innovative method to stop Viking’s car as the drug lord attempts to escape from the carnage. It’s in the trailer, and it’s an unforgettable scene. I’ve put it in my top twenty movie scenes for its sheer extravagance. The last laugh, however, is delivered by the snowplough, which has a particular set of skills in dealing with any undesirable who may drop in.
Nels’ wife Grace (an underused Laura Dern) isn’t given much to do and is written out early in proceedings never to return. She leaves him a letter comprising a blank sheet of paper, which is an indication of the character’s irrelevance. There is a multitude of characters in the movie, but my pick of the bunch would be Gip, a police officer who prefers to hand out parking tickets than risk investigating drug dealing and murders, much to the chagrin of his partner. Top of the list, however, is Ryan Calcote, Viking’s ten-year-old son who was far smarter than his crooked father and coolness personified even when kidnapped. Although some of the violence is overly gratuitous, it is a very watchable movie if only for the amazing amount of snow, so deep that it would not surprise me if some of the crew fell victim to it and are still out there now awaiting a heroic snowplough man to rescue them.
Funnier than you average Liam Neeson action movie for all the right reasons, Cold Pursuit is tremendous fun if you’re in the right mood.