At first glance, Cold Pursuit seems like your typical, cookie cutter action movie. Liam Neeson plays a snowplow driver who seeks revenge against the drug dealers he thinks killed his son. Haven’t we seen Liam Neeson alone in this role a million times – even just accounting for the Taken movies? Wrong. Cold Pursuit defies expectation at every turn, snowplowing an entirely new and surprisingly fun course that you can’t help but follow, like an inexplicable joyride.
Based on the 2014 Norwegian film In Order of Disappearance, the movie follows upstanding citizen Nels Coxman (Neeson) as he embarks on the aforementioned revenge quest. The cast is rounded out by such fantastic performers as Laura Dern (playing Nels’ wife, Grace), Emmy Rossum (a detective keen to better their small town), Tom Bateman (drug lord Viking – more on him later), and Julia Jones (as Viking’s delightfully deadpan ex).
As Nels works his way up the drug ring’s ladder to reach the one responsible for his son’s death, the film hits many of the beats you would expect – while also subverting them each time. There are violent interrogations and murders… each marked by sketch-like graphics reminiscent of Wes Anderson. Everyone involved in the cartel has a codename, but they are kind of questionable and that doesn’t go unacknowledged. The Coxmans’ marriage is strained by the loss of their son and Nels’ secret vendetta, and the way that plays out (no spoilers!) again subverts expectation in a humorous way.
Perhaps one of the most enjoyable surprises Cold Pursuit has to offer is Tom Bateman’s Viking. By day, he’s a billionaire playboy businessman – basically Tony Stark, but with the maturity level dialed wayyyy back. The dynamics between Viking and his young son, as well as his crew, are constantly surprising and entertaining – as are his many temper tantrums. Also, let me just say that if you have found yourself in need of another British man called Tom to crush on – this movie has you covered.
Viking’s ex, Aya (Jones), and son Ryan (Nicholas Holmes) add another interesting layer onto the operation, as Aya and Viking try to maintain a relatively normal life for their son… which, given Viking’s extreme wealth and horde of armed “associates” (cartel members) isn’t really all that normal.
These intriguing character moments and relationships are rounded out by a plot that keeps you guessing – and headed in a direction I definitely did not expect, as the cops (Rossum included) and a rival cartel get involved – as well as some gorgeous and impossibly snowy views of Colorado. There is a whole lot of violence and not nearly enough Laura Dern, but I would certainly recommend Cold Pursuit if you’re in the mood for an unconventional action movie that leans into its quirks and unexpected humor. Don’t miss the credits for some more visual fun.
Cold Pursuit hits theaters February 8.