Cast: Liam Neeson, Laura Dern, Emmy Rossum, Tom Bateman
Director: Hans Petter Moland
I really enjoy when Liam Neeson has a good action movie come out. Neeson’s had some real some real duds over the last few years and while last year’s The Commuter was not the worst, it didn’t live up to what we all know Neeson can do deep down. With Cold Pursuit, we see a return to form from Neeson as this may be his best lead action role since The Grey. A wonderful combination of dark comedy and action, Cold Pursuit is the perfect anti-Valentine’s Day movie to watch if you want to enjoy 118 minutes watching a more relaxed approach to action movies.
The film follows Nelson Coxman (Neeson), a local snowplow who was recently recognized as citizen of the year in his small Colorado town. After his son Kyle (Michael Richardson) is killed by local gang members after stealing from them, Nelson makes it his life’s mission to hunt down everyone responsible for his son’s death and to give them the same fate they gave his son. The fact that this movie takes more of a dark comedy approach to its decision-making as compared to some of its more serious counterparts helps this movie immensely. Considering that we can laugh multiple times as the movie goes on helps break up the tense moments and makes the movie feel more natural. Many of these comedic moments happen during the transitions as we get a small memoriam every time a character dies and most of these end up being strategically placed so that they generate more of a laugh rather than the feeling of nothingness we usually get from seeing minor characters die. In contrast to the comedy, the dramatic moments work almost exclusively due to the way they are spread out and because of the timing of each situation. For example, when Nelson and his wife Grace (Dern) go to the coroner to see Kyle’s body, the crank on the stretcher takes an obscene amount of time rising to their level which makes us feel that much worse for the pair of grieving parents. There are other scenes like this, especially in the later acts, and almost all of them create the tension that the movie is looking for. Outside of the drama and comedy, I was surprised at just how strong the performances were for an action movie released in February. Neeson’s progression from a grieving father to a man on a mission seems natural and even though Nelson doesn’t have a background that would allow him to undergo such an arduous path, but the way it develops feels natural and authentic compared to most other movies in the genre. Though the real star of the movie is Bateman as Viking, the leader of the drug gang that Nelson is picking apart. His performance is truly something special, as he can go from a caring father in one scene to a mass-murdering maniac in the next. It may be a stretch to say his performance is one of the best from an action movie in recent years, but through his ability to change personas on a dime and still be believable the entire make his role something I will remember for quite some time after watching this movie.
Overall, this is a strange time to release a movie like this, as most people around Valentine’s Day want to see something lighter and more uplifting, and while the box office seems to be representing that sentiment, Cold Pursuit will end up as one of the stronger releases of the early part of the year. For a Western directorial debut by Moland, I have to say this is the type of movie I am looking for from directors that I am less familiar with. While it may end up being swept aside and perceived as one of your typical early-season cash-grabs, Cold Pursuit can be enjoyed by both action film enthusiasts and casual fans alike.
Overall Score: 7.5/10