Liam Neeson stars in a nasty but dopey action thriller that is now quite impossible to separate from his recent comments in Britain’s The Independent.
Director Hans Petter Moland helms this American remake of his own 2014 Norwegian film In Order Of Disappearance (a.k.a. Kraftidioten), with Neeson filling in for the original’s Stellan Skarsgård. It’s a violent shoot-‘em-up with a few pretensions and a weird vein of bloody black comedy that doesn’t work.
In the snowbound town of Kehoe in the Rocky Mountains, quite a way out of Denver, we meet Nelson ‘Nels’ Coxman (Neeson), an admired snowplow driver and all-round good-egg who’s just about to receive the Citizen Of The Year award as his tolerant wife Grace (Laura Dern) looks on. At the same time, their gormless twentysomething son Kyle (Micheál Richardson) is being grabbed by a bunch of baddies, who off him by way of a heroin overdose.
Neeson’s Nelson knows that Kyle wasn’t a “druggie” and gets that now-familiar “someone’s gonna pay!” look on his hangdog gob, and sets about tracking down a series of drug-dealers by way of information supplied by a blubbering lad named Dante (Wesley MacInnes). However, in the Taken movies (and the films that came afterwards in which he was reborn as a getting-on arse-kicker), Liam was a tough guy to start with, but here he’s new to the world of revenge and killing, and so, therefore, when he gets his paws on the crims, there’s a kind of strained, gory humour to it all, as he bashes, blasts, shoots and snowplows his way through them.
They’re a shonky mob just dying to, well, die as well, and they all go by silly codenames. And they include: ‘Speedo’ (Michael Eklund), a mohawk-ed goon; ‘Limbo’ (Bradley Stryker), moonlighting in a wedding apparel store; ‘Santa’ (Michael Adamthwaite), whose death prompts a bizarre burst of The Pretenders classic 2000 Miles; and ‘Viking’ (Tom Bateman), a rich, hammy nightclub proprietor, who dearly wants to be Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. But isn’t.
An accidental turf war also commences between these dealers and a local Native American gang, which leads to severed head jokes and un-PC nonsense about the word ‘reservation’, while a pair of detectives (Emmy Rossum and Aleks Paunovic) seem to be perpetually on the verge of tracking down Liam and others, before more bloodshed kicks off – but never quite managing it. And then they conveniently wander right out of the movie for long stretches, just in case they get in the way of all the ho-hum carnage.
Unfortunately there are uncomfortable parallels with all the vengeance stuff here and Liam’s own ill-advised comments, but it’s also worth noting that most of this feels drab and pointless, without even the vicious thrill of a Taken or even one of its clones (like Non-Stop or Run All Night, for example). And Liam looks too old for it, despite attempts to disguise it with distracting pancake make-up that obviously keeps falling off in the freezing onset temperatures.
Before the controversy Liam suggested that this would be his last action movie, and Cold Pursuit makes a strong case that yes, it is quite time to put this late-career chapter to bed. Of course, following his recent comments that decision may now be out of his hands.
Cold Pursuit (MA)is in cinemas from February 7