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Cold Pursuit - the Coen Brothers would be proud


So let's start with the story. In COLD PURSUIT, Nelson Coxman (Liam Neeson) makes his living driving a snowplow in the mountain ski resort town of Kehoe; he even receives a "Citizen of the Year" award for his efforts. But then his teen son is found dead, the autopsy indicating a drug overdose. Nelson is certain that his son didn't use drugs, so he sets out to find the truth. After a trail of dead bodies, Nelson finds his target: a slick, dangerous, well-protected drug lord called "Viking" (Tom Bateman). Meanwhile, Viking is trying to discover who's killing all his henchmen; he blames rival drug lord White Bull (Tom Jackson) and inadvertently starts a turf war. Nelson goes to his brother/former partner in crime "Wingman" (William Forsythe) for help and eventually forms a plan to get to Viking. But a fresh-faced police officer (Emmy Rossum) is also on the trail, trying to make sense of the whole mess.

This bloody, deceptive thriller starts out like yet another one of Neeson's revenge movies, but it subtly switches into a very dark comedy that asks us to consider our various reactions to death. Cold Pursuit iss directed by Hans Petter Moland; it's a remake of his own 2014 Norwegian film In Order of Disappearance for American audiences. It feels like he's iterating to achieve perfection, tone- and style-wise. For instance, something feels odd when Nelson and his wife (Laura Dern) go to identify their son's body and must wait awkwardly while a morgue worker pumps a foot pedal again and again to raise the corpse to viewing height.

The scene is sad, but it also inspires laughter. Moland allows time for viewers to experience both feelings and then ask themselves "why did I react like that?" The film balances a large array of characters and each is treated with respect, with the realisation that everyone has his or her own feelings. Viking is a slick, selfish villain who's appalling in many ways but also logical; the scenes in which he attempts to relate to his young son are both ridiculous and touching. The movie's biggest flaw is that it keeps all these balls, characters, humor, and pathos in the air for a long time, and it can get exhausting. But for the majority of its running time, Cold Pursuit is surprising, bracing grown-up entertainment.

Neeson does what he does in his last decade of film-making, although there are large stretches when he is absent form the screen which feels odd. Laura Dern is wasted and just disappears early in the film. There are lots of loose threads at the end, most notable,Viking's son and the plotting and pacing of final action sequence is something the Coen brothers would be proud of.

It's one of Neeson's better efforts once you can get past his most recent controversial comments.


 

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