Movie Review: “Cold Pursuit”
Nels (Liam Neeson) thought he knew his son. When his son dies from a heroin overdose, it sends Nels on a whirlwind of emotions. Nels was voted man of the year by his community for his devoted work as a snowplow driver. After the shocking death of his son, Nels endures the grief that any parent would, but this is coupled by the fact that he knows his son was not a druggy. He knows there is something more sinister that surrounds his sons death, but has no way of finding answers.
Just as Nels is about to give up, he is contacted by someone who knows what happened to his son. Nels learns that his son was killed by someone in the local heroin organization. He does not know the extent of what his son got caught in the middle of. What he does have is the alias of the man who killed his son, as well as the place that the killer likes to hang out. Nels has a name and he has a location, but his search for answers may get him stuck in the middle of something bigger, and may turn him into a very different man.
The Pros & Cons
Liam Neeson (+6pts)
The Action & The Humor (+8pts)
Laura Dern (-3pts)
The Turf War (+5pts)
Raising Viking’s Son (-4pts)
Pro: Liam Neeson (+6pts)
I do not have a whole lot to say here, but Liam Neeson was very obviously a perfect choice for the lead role of this movie. He does a great job of balancing the line between being an action badass and being a likeable main character. I will get into the combination of humor and action a bit later, but Liam Neeson was a great pick for this movie’s unique tone. We have all seen him play the action badass before, and we have seen him do comedies, but not together. In this movie he blends the two well, and is both charismatic and relatable the entire time, which made the movie easy to get invested in. I am not going to say that this was an incredibly complex role, because it was not, but Liam Neeson was a great choice for it.
Con: Viking (-5pts)
Viking was the movie’s primary antagonist and, in my opinion, the worst part of this movie. I do not know if it was the actor or director that was responsible for this, but the character was played in a way that made it feel like he was in a cartoon. He had a cartoonish “bad guy” voice, but that was not even the worst thing about him (although it was annoying on top of everything else). What I hated about this character the most, was how unbelievably unlikable he was. From the way he parents his son, to the way he treats everyone around him, the guy is just a complete a-hole. I am all for making bad guys unlikable (that is kind of the whole point), but this character was too unbelievable. It felt like the character would have been better suited for a cheap, parody version of this movie.
Pro: The Action & The Humor (+8pts)
Again, we have all seen Liam Neeson in action movies before. This movie has all the great action that you would expect, as well as a few surprises, but the movie has some extra flavor (from what you would expect from a Liam Neeson action movie). That extra flavor was the humor, which was pretty cheesy at times, but it worked well for the movie. Some of the comedy pokes fun at the idea of Nels being a normal man who starts killing people. Other comedic moments come from silly interactions between some characters. The comedy was cheesy, but the action and the tone were always dark and gritty. This was a unique combination that I enjoyed watching.
Con: Laura Dern (-3pts)
Laura Dern plays Grace, who was a shockingly useless character in this story. She is married to Nels and is (understandably) distraught over the death of her son. Unfortunately, the filmmakers went absolutely nowhere with this character. She just gets upset when her son dies and that’s it. There is no character development, and there is no conclusion to her story. The character is even absent from the latter three quarters of the movie.
Then there was the ridiculous letter she left for Nels. I believe the letter she left was intended as a joke (by the filmmakers and to the auduence), but it came across as dumb and was evident that the filmmakers had no idea what to do with her part of the story. Grace was a useless character that was pointless in the beginning of the story and completely absent from the majority of the film. This was pretty disappointing considering the fact that the filmmakers got Laura Dern for the role. At the end of the day, the film would have been better off if it just started with Nels as a single parent.
Pro: The Turf War (+5pts)
This was an element of the story that I was not expecting, as it was not obvious from the trailer. The movie was a lot more complicated than a simple revenge story, and that was a good thing because we have seen that many times before, and we have seen Liam Neeson in the lead role of a few of those stories. This movie switches it up by putting the main character’s revenge mission right in the middle of a turf war between two very powerful drug lords. This element of the story was crucial in making this story unpredictable, which kept me watching intently. We have seen countless revenge stories and, while revenge stories are not by definition ”bland”, this movie switches it up in an interesting way.
Con: Raising Viking’s Son (-4pts)
This was an aspect of the story that got, what I thought was, too much focus. I have already talked about my issues with the character of Viking, so I will not get into that again, but the filmmakers decided to show Viking and his ex-wife struggling to find compromise when raising their child. Yes, in a revenge story where Liam Neeson goes around killing people in the middle of a deadly feud between two drug lords, the filmmakers decided to spend a good portion of screen time showing the debate on how to raise Viking’s son. This could have worked if Viking was an interesting character but, as I mentioned before, he was far from it. I did like the boy, and the actress who played his mother (Julia Jones) did a good job, but this whole storyline felt like a waste of screen time.
Grade: B- (82pts)
This movie kind of came out of nowhere for me. I knew and heard nothing about the movie, until seeing a few adds only days before the movie’s release date. After having seen the movie, I can safely say that I enjoyed it. It did have its problems, with an antagonist that felt like he was ripped straight out of a cartoon, and a storyline involving the antagonist’s child that I thought had no place in this movie. On top of that, Laura Dern’s character was one of the most surprisingly useless characters that I have seen in a long time, but there was enough about the movie that I enjoyed.
The movie had what you would expect from a Liam Neeson action movie, but it had some extra flavor. It had plenty of humor (although it was usually dark humor), and it was a revenge story set in the middle of a turf war between two drug lords. I do not want to give you the impression that this was an action packed movie, but there was certainly enough of it, and the action was always good when it was happening. There were some awesome moments in this movie, but the best part about the film was its unique tone. The action blended really well with this style of comedy, and Liam Neeson was a fantastic choice for this role. Cold Pursuit is not a movie that anyone should be rushing to see, but I had a good time watching it.