Starring: Liam Neeson, Laura Dern, Tom Bateman
Director: Hans Petter Moland
Running Time: 118 mins
Cold Pursuit is an American film about a man who, after hearing of the death of his son at the hands of a brutal drug lord, begins to work his way through the cronies of the dealer towards seeking ultimate vengeance against the man who killed his son.
You’ve seen this movie before – Taken, Run All Night, A Walk Among The Tombstones, need I go on. As yet another Liam Neeson revenge flick, I didn’t have the highest expectations for Cold Pursuit, but I did at least look forward to some fun action throughout. Unfortunately, this film doesn’t even deliver that, instead proving an immensely boring watch over the course of two almost totally lifeless hours, and failing to ever deliver on its promises of a dark and intriguing black comedy/crime thriller.
Of course, I shouldn’t come down too hard on Cold Pursuit for not being as action-packed and exciting as the likes of Taken, because it doesn’t have to be the same movie, and nor does it really intend to be. While the main premise is pretty much identical, Cold Pursuit is a much slower, quieter movie, set in the icy wilderness of a small Colorado ski town, intending to deliver its excitement through dark comedy than simply stringing fight scenes together for two hours.
However, that dark comedy never, ever lands. While the film finds its source in a Norwegian movie, In Order Of Disappearance, it never delivers that brilliantly dark Scandinavian humour in the right manner, constantly falling flat as it attempts to intrigue you while simultaneously making you smirk.
Director Hans Petter Moland really gets the vibe wrong this time round (I can’t speak for the original Norwegian film), as I found myself deeply confused right the way through as to whether the film was meant to be making me laugh, or was just another typical Liam Neeson movie. And when a film’s atmosphere is that unsure, it has absolutely no chance of providing a genuinely entertaining watch.
It all culminates in a finale that’s intended to be as darkly comic as anything that’s come before, but the film’s final scene in particular is indicative of just how misjudged its atmosphere of dark comedy is, ending on a confusing, unfunny and incredibly random note, the tip of the iceberg when it comes to failed humour here.
So, if you’re looking for another fun, action-packed Liam Neeson thriller, then Cold Pursuit was never going to be the film for you. And if you wanted a darkly comic and intriguing crime thriller, then Cold Pursuit tries to make that work for you, but fails again and again throughout.
Moving on, one of my real bugbears in this film is the editing. It’s generally okay in terms of basic sequence editing, but it’s without a doubt the main reason that Cold Pursuit has absolutely no flow, and feels so entirely lifeless.
As Liam Neeson makes his way through the main villain’s various cronies, each of his kills is marked by a black intertitle that reads with the name of the dead. And then he moves onto the next one. That happens for every single kill in the entire movie – and as a Liam Neeson movie – it happens a lot of times.
That, and that alone, totally destroys the pace and flow of the whole film, with each of the kills feeling like a little vignette that’s not connected to the story as a whole, giving the film an infuriatingly episodic and repetitive feel, rather than the slick thriller it’s trying to be.
And finally, a word on the performances, which are generally pretty underwhelming too. Liam Neeson is fine in the lead role, although we’ve seen him do this performance far better on a number of occasions. Laura Dern, meanwhile, is almost non-existent throughout, and Tom Bateman, who plays the main villain, is comically bad, with an unmenacing and dull performance that really adds to the film’s problems when trying to get you to take things a little bit more seriously.
Overall, then, I was really unimpressed with Cold Pursuit. While it has a couple of moments, and does try to do something a little different to the typical Liam Neeson thriller, it’s a painfully dull affair with a tedious story, infuriating editing, underwhelming performances and a deeply misjudged black comedy atmosphere that makes the entire thing an awkward and totally lifeless film to watch, and that’s why I’m giving it a 5.5.
Villain is comically bad – unmenacing and dull, really poor performance too
Black comedy never lands – terrible final ‘gag’ is the worst of a consistent stream of dark jokes and attempts to satirise gangster movies that all fall flat on their face
Editing: intertitles destroy all pace and flow of the film – makes it feel really episodic and repetitive. Plus they’re distracting and jarring on a regular basis