Pursuit a bloody misfire
I’ve spoken of tone before in other reviews – how hard it is to sustain over the course of a film, how difficult it is to maintain a consistent mood on a set over the length of a prolonged shoot, how it can shift and be lost from one scene to the next. Director Hans Petter Moland walks this high-wire act with Cold Pursuit, a remake of his own Norwegian feature In Order of Disappearance, a 2014 thriller that was a hit in his homeland and with the art house crowd. It’s a revenge tale, replete with plenty of violence, so of course it’s tailor made for an American remake. Looking to get his foot in the door of the Hollywood film factory, Moland agreed to shepherd this redo through, the result being a mixed bag of gore and humor that comes up short more times than not.
Liam Neeson continues his efforts to eclipse Charles Bronson as cinema’s preeminent geriatric action hero as Nels Coxman, a devoted snowplow driver whose dedication keeps the mountain community of Kehoe, Colorado open to the rest of the world. That gets him named Citizen of the Year; however, it’s an honor he can’t appreciate as very soon afterwards he’s told his son has died due to a heroin overdose. Adamant that his boy was not an addict, he begins looking for answers, his questions leading to a series of nefarious lowlifes he dispatches with extreme prejudice. The blood-soaked trail ends at drug lord Viking (Tom Bateman), a maniac who doesn’t take kindly to his methods.
While a certain degree of logic is surrendered in films of this sort, there are far too many lapses in Frank Baldwin’s script to be overlooked. Coxman’s wife, Grace, exits far too conveniently by the end of the first act, leading me to conclude that Laura Dern must have wanted a free trip to Canada where the movie was shot, as it is far too minor a role for an actress of her caliber. More troubling are Coxman’s deductive abilities as he’s able to track down Viking’s underlings with mite-like pieces of information. I’m all for expediency where the plot is concerned, but these narrative leaps are ridiculous.
However, what dooms the film in the end is Moland’s attempt to create a Tarantino-esque exercise of grisly violence and wry humor, a black comedy that revels in its own self-awareness. As each character bites the dust, the screen fades to black, a colorful nickname and a symbol for religious affiliation marking that person’s passing. Initially, this is clever, but it soon becomes obvious and heavy-handed. (By my count, there were 26 corpses piled up by the end, one every four-and-a-half minutes).
This is a shame, as there are some solid things in the mix here. The poignant relationship between Viking’s son, Ryan (Nicholas Holmes), and his bodyguard, Mustang (Domenick Lombardozzi), Bateman’s enjoyable over-the-top performance and background on the marriage between Coxman and Grace are all areas that, had they been more fully developed, would have made for a more complete and entertaining movie. Unfortunately, Moland is far more interested in racking up a high body count rather than providing a human element to these characters that are just fodder for his “artistic” purposes.
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