In light of Liam Neeson’s well documented remarks about wanting to exact revenge on any black man he could find after hearing his friend had been attacked by a man of the same skin colour, there’s a certain uncomfortable irony to the film’s tagline ‘revenge is best served cold’. Unfortunately this casts a heavy shadow over the film and turns the usually interesting and morally ambiguous Liam Neeson character into an unsympathetic two dimensional killing machine.
As plots go, Cold Pursuit doesn’t break any new ground as Liam Neeson (at this point in his decade long action film career where his characters seem to merge into one he might as well just be called ‘Liam Neeson’) attempts to track down those responsible for his son’s death. However, for such a simple plot there are so many characters who are sprung upon us with no introduction, plot points that are brought up without payoff and a generally confused tone.
Although Cold Pursuit sells itself as a black comedy action film, the cast seem to be unsure how to play it. Laura Dern, who is basically a glorified cameo, brings the same gravitas she brings to all her films and easily turns in the best (but most thankless) performance as the grieving mother and wife. Meanwhile Liam Neeson plays the same grizzled Northern Irish rogue he’s made an unlikely action career out of recently. However, compared to Dern and Neeson’s straight performance, Tom Bateman appears to be desperately trying and failing to channel Heath Ledger’s Joker as he plays the main baddie ‘Viking’. In the process he manages to create an unintentionally hilarious moustache-twirling villain at odds with the gritty tone of the rest of the film.
Considering director Hans Petter Moland chose to remake his own Norwegian film In Order of Disappearance with this all American setting and characters, it’s a shame there was not more thought put into setting it apart from other generic Hollywood action films. There are some good action sequences throughout as well as some very nice moments of black comedy, noticeably Liam Neeson’s son being lowered painfully slowly on a creaky examination table in the morgue to the embarrassment of everyone. However, these moments are scattered sparingly in a serious film that is making sure to take itself seriously as an extremely serious revenge thriller.