Set in the cold, white ski city of Kehoe (fictionally located in Colorado), Cold Pursuit sees an angry, old Liam Neeson in another quest for revenge. It’s barely surprising if skeptical viewers might mistake it for another cousin of Taken (along with Non-Stop, Run All Night, and The Commuter) given the premise. Yet, give it a go and you’ll find out that Hans Petter Moland’s remake of his own Norwegian thriller is more like Fargo (Noah Hawley’s rendition over Coen Brothers’): stark, slick and ambiguous.
Neeson is Nelson Coxman, a snowplow driver and award-winning citizen. He’s just received the ‘Citizen of the Year’ accolade when the news about his son’s death struck him. Upon realizing something odd about the nature of his son’s death, Coxman goes rampant in a desperate manhunt to find the true culprit. His revenge quest unintentionally triggers a bloody gang war between two drug cartels which Coxman can barely avoid.
One kill leads to another (each body count is marked on-screen with a title screen). In each kill, Coxman will slay a cartel member and dispose their bodies into a giant icy river as he learns from crime-thriller novels he read (I wonder if they’re written by Jo Nesbø). In no time, the ‘simple’ kill becomes an avalanche and everybody’s dragged along in a festival of painting the snow red. The killings are text-bookish, but Molard decides to add pumped-up awkwardness and dead-pan comedic moment in one way or another. The result is an absurd thriller, which gives you as much laugh and thrill at the same time.
Cold Pursuit actually relies much on its complicated nature of the conflict (imagine if this piece is written by Taylor Sheridan), which becomes more ambiguous as the story progresses. Most of the time, the story puts forward logic over emotion; but, in doing so, it often distracts its own trails with some overly strained comedy (that Barbie Girl scene is golden if not too distant). The consequence is farce. Neeson’s character blends into the world of homicides in a breathtakingly quick down-slide as if the persona of the award-winning citizen faded in no time. Meanwhile, Laura Dern’s character makes an exit without everyone’s ever noticing. While trying to be serious and goofy at the same time, Cold Pursuit offers us something barely fresh, yet enticing (especially within the world of rebranded Liam Neeson’s filmography).
With surprisingly bleak comedy of errors and revenge-is-a-dish-better-served-cold tropes blending into a deadpan thriller, Cold Pursuit confidently and playfully paints the blizzard red. If you’re watching Noah Hawley’s Fargo, the whole set-up might remind you to its second and third season. Both season series and this movie never shy away from playing with brutal demise and making jokes out of it; and, it’s a bold yet enticing thing to do.