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Going into Cold Pursuit, I viewed it as just another Neeson led action flick, expecting it to be fast, simple and an easy enough watch. Now that I’ve witnessed Cold Pursuit from beginning to end, I’ve got to admit that this is a thousand times past what I was expecting. Nothing could have prepared me for this dark, maniacal adventure with a man who just lost a son… absolutely nothing.
Hans Petter Moland has garnered a special place in my heart with this wild ride he’s created, making something so much more out of a typical Liam Neeson revenge premise. Cold Pursuit is explosive with style and brilliant craftsmanship within the art being projected on the screen. While the style may not be one that we’ve grown accustomed to, it is certainly one that deserves a look. The action is well shot, even though a majority of it is shown off screen with a curtain (literally) being drawn and a death certificate in the form of an in-memoriam text being scrolled across the screen. Moland has a sick sense of humor, and it shows through the direction of Baldwin’s “Americanized” screenplay - he took what he always knew and made it once more with an amazing cast to guide his way.
Based on a 2014 foreign film of identical premise, Cold Pursuit may not be the most unique film for fans of the original iteration. However for people unaware of the 2014 film, this film is smartly written and self aware of just how horrendously violent it’s being. The story is darkly twisted, and while fully fleshed out in many ways, the introduction of a little too many characters quickly becomes overwhelming. However, the finale blowout and closing scene really makes the audience appreciate the extra time given to these sub-groups. In a simple form, the son of Neeson’s Nels Coxman is murdered, and the death is framed as being one of an overdosing junkie. Coxman, with the help of his criminal brother, begins taking people out one-by-one in an incredibly brutal fashion who might have been involved. If there was any question left unanswered, it’d be where’d he get the time to clean up his messes (looking at you dress shop scene), but at a certain point you realize this isn’t a film to take too seriously but instead to be taken as an ultra-violent thrill ride that is absolutely relentless.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
I’ve honestly always been a fan of Liam Neeson (*cough*) beginning around the first Taken days though of course. He’s had quite a transition from a dramatic actor into an action star, which is something not many others could accomplish - similar in ways to the brilliant dramatic actor Leslie Nielsen turning into a comedic phenomenon for the latter part of his life. He’s the average man in all of this, as every other character is incredibly eccentric in one way or another and makes it difficult for the audience to ever be appreciative of any one character because before you know it, *poof*, a death text scrolls across the screen. For the majority of the cast, everyone is a whole lot of fun, playing with this oddball script and having fun with it - especially the main villain who is a powerful drug lord known by the name Viking. Viking, played by Tom Bateman, had to grow on me, as his decisions for the part originally threw me off until it clicked that he’s practically “The Joker” without makeup, (Heath Ledger’s portrayal to be exact) and I absolutely loved it. A child actor is in the film playing Viking’s son, and while he’s good in this particular performance, it’s mainly because of how emotionless the child is that this particular actor works in the role. Just like many other aspects of the script, the involvement of the son lets the audience gather how evil of a person Viking truly is. Coxman’s wife, portrayed by Laura Dern, has a minimal role in the film and she’s honestly very forgettable and a waste of a talent if you ask me, but she’s not unnecessary to the emotions conveyed by Neeson later in the film - her casting just seems wasteful. Every character has a slight backstory, whether it be a simple hint here and there or a flat out kiss on screen between henchman, you begin to diagnose these characters - deciding if they deserve to live or die. Among the bunch there are a few bad apples, and a couple come off as unnecessary assets to the story, from the “Indian” revenge seekers to the two small town cops who don’t exactly steal scenes, but instead slows the film down entirely for humor that either doesn’t flow, or a plot point that leads to practically nowhere.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The score instantaneously clicked with me, as I’m a fan of odder films such as this and was assured by its intense dark wit, with the score acting as an assistant to everything else on screen. The music isn’t always the star amongst all other factors such as the sound effects in the snow, swirling around the victims being disposed of, or the impact of a fist hitting the unsuspecting suspect, all of which leave lasting impressions because they are simply not undermined by an overpowering score. A sound design that perfectly represents the humor and violence depicted on screen is a real sense of accomplishment for elevating this bizarre material.
From the graphic violence being displayed on screen to the wreckless blizzards of the small town within presumably Colorado, I almost felt as if I was in a continuation of FARGO. The beautiful filmmaking always issues a sense of isolation in the endless snow, as it tints the scenery and creates a wonderful white filter over everything. The blood effects are gruesome, and just like much else is relentless in its depiction on screen. What makes the violence so much more warranted is the decision to hide some killings while displaying others, namely the hero’s (Neeson) every kill. Cold Pursuit displays some of the best effects in a film I’ve seen in a long time, and is reminiscent of the brutal imagery created for films of Tarantino caliber. Major applause is needed in this category above all else.
Fans of Neeson should find a lot to love here, as it’s Neeson at his best - but those who have the predisposition to faint from intense violence may want to stay away. Reminiscent of a few of my absolute favorites on the DVD shelf such as Seven Psychopaths and In Bruges, the humor is wicked and catches you off guard, but it’s so relentless that it works 90% of the time. It’s a film to check out for fans of Neeson and fans of weird films that release every year, yet are actually quality - do yourself a favor and watch Cold Pursuit. You may regret it...but I promise you won’t forget it.