One of the most unexpected, pleasant surprises of recent memory, Cold Pursuit is a worthy remake of 2014’s In Order of Disappearance. Billed as an action-drama, the film is more of a dark-comedy than anything. Clearly inspired by something the Coen Brothers might put together, director Hans Petter Moland does a masterful job at making the audience laugh, cringe, and root for these (mostly) despicable characters. In Cold Pursuit, the law doesn’t play a factor, realism isn’t necessarily at the forefront, but its tongue-in-cheek nature ties together one of the most unique “crime-drama-comedies” in the last few years.
Nels Coxman (Liam Neeson) lives a simple life in the Rocky Mountain town of Kehoe. As a snow plow driver, Nels spends his days clearing the deep snow from the main roads. Nels’ son, Kyle (Micheál Richardson), works for the local airport, which is frequented by the well-off vacationers and ski-junkies. After an unfortunate mix-up at the airport, Kyle is kidnapped and murdered by local drug lords. Disguised as an accidental heroin overdose, the local police write it off as another self-inflicted drug causality. Knowing his son was not a drug user, Nels starts down on a path of revenge that leads all the way to eccentric Denver crime boss, Trevor “Viking” Calcote (Tom Bateman).
Moland, who notably directed the film that Cold Pursuit is based on, does an incredible job at keeping every shot simple and clean. There is no wasted space on screen, ranging from the beautiful Rocky Mountain views to the tense “one on one” standoffs littered throughout the film. Early on, there is a scene where Nels and his wife Grace (Laura Dern), must go identify their son’s body. Moland uses this incredibly personal and tragic moment in a parent’s life, as his cue to tell the audience that this is not your typical revenge story. As the mourning parents enter the morgue, the attendant slowly raises the gurney, so slowly that the entire mood of the film shifts from a tragedy to a comedy. A very risky and bold move by Moland pays off here, and Cold Pursuit is able to stay fresh and inventive until the end credits roll. The only blemish is that at some point, the movie almost gets too ridiculous, and it definitely can alienate some of the audience.
For the most part, the acting goes by without a hitch. Unnoteworthy but effective, the cast is asked to be dry and succinct, coinciding with the overall tone of the movie. Neeson plays his familiar role of a father looking to avenge his family and is impressive. Bateman, who plays the main antagonist, Viking, puts on an impressive show. A tough role to handle, Bateman grows into his character about halfway through the movie, and becomes a memorable villain, to say the least.
Cold Pursuit breaks all the norms of your average revenge-flick and is not afraid to be different. By eliciting genuine laughs, shocks and tension, Moland has crafted a truly unique and memorable experience.
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