13 February 2019 | RforFilm
Cold Pursuit is the Liam Neeson parody that combines Coen brothers-style storytelling with Tarantino-style pacing
It's the January/February season, which also means it's time for a certain gravely-voiced actor to make another action movie we've been seeing around this time for a while. Yep, it's Liam Neeson time. Some people might see him as a one-note actor who plays similar characters in most of his movies. You'd be right if you were just referring to his recent revenge movies like Taken or "thriller on a mode of transportation" movie like Non Stop or The Commuter. You could even make that argument with his comedic roles like The Lego Movie or dramas like Schindler's List.
While I won't go as far to claim that Liam Neeson is one of the greatest actors, I do put him in the same category of similar actors to John Wayne or Jimmy Stewart who are more or less playing variations of their personas. You don't see them to slip into characters, but more for them in a different situation. No actor should be ashamed about this and should even be thankful they have fans that come for this. Even in a bad movie, I still like Liam Neeson and what he does in his movies. That's why it's nice to see him make fun of himself and his movies in Cold Pursuit.
Snowplower Nelson Cox (played by Liam Neeson) has just been awarded citizen of the year while enjoying his happy life, happy wife, and happy son. But then his son is found dead of a heroin overdose. Despite Nelson's pleas that his son wasn't a drug user, the police find no evidence of foul play and rule it a suicide. Still, Nelson feels that something fishy is going on and discovers from a friend that his son was the target of a mafia hit. Once he figures out who it was, be becomes a vigilante and kills off several people to get to the leader.
Mafia head "Viking" (played by Tom Bateman) becomes angry (and this is a hotheaded villain) and mistakes the killer coming from another Native-American mafia within the same town. They eventually instigate conflict and a mafia war, while Nelson continues to axe off more people. It eventually leads him to a point where he kidnaps Viking's son in order to draw him out...and the gang...and the other gang...and the local police as a war of confused sides come together just to figure out whose angry at who.
I'll say right away that while this has the plot of a standard thriller that seems tailor made for Liam Neeson; that because it is and is proud of it. In fact, this is more of a parody of those Liam Neeson movies that come out around this time. Cold Pursuit takes a lot of those elements, like the tough leading man with a combat background, an eccentric villain, a family member he's avenging, and even the use of a transport machine as a plot device (in this case, a snowplow), and put it into a movie that made me laugh at the dark elements that are typically easier to write in dramas.
What helps Cold Pursuit is two things. First is the tone, which seems like a mix of Coen brothers cinematography and Tarantino-style editing and storytelling. This brings up a lot of side characters that are usually sidelined in a lot of Liam Neeson movies. The main villain is delightfully over-the-top as an angry, yelling hothead, the Native Americans play off as wise while seemingly insane, and even some of the mafia goons get their little personality quirks that make them more then just throw away bad guys. There isn't much to Liam Neeson himself, who is basically the straight man to all the chaos.
I think that Liam Neeson would have to know at this point that his characters have gone through the same scenario so many times, that playing it up as a parody would only make sense from this point. Cold Pursuit is an example of how that can take up that idea and make a parody without it becoming too silly. This is a dark comedy and because of that, I can see this as being an acquired taste. Some may want an action with a more engaging story and some may want a comedy with more jokes. I say this is a happy marriage that isn't great, but rather simply remains a fun ride.
I'll give this seven snowplows out of ten. Other then those wanting a more unconventional comedy, this is also for those that like Liam Neeson and the movies he makes around this time. Even the title Cold Pursuit should tell you right away what your getting into. Go see it and get angry enough to take this ride.