Cold Pursuit

 

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Fargo meets Taken in Liam Neeson’s funniest and most stylish thriller since, um, ever.

 
Cold Pursuit

White mischief: Emmy Rossum and John Doman (in uniform)

 

There’s a sassy small-town policewoman, a tribe of Native Americans, a drug cartel, a child prodigy, a whole lotta snow and Liam Neeson. Neeson, as the skilled operator of a snowplough, is obviously on the warpath, but it still feels like he’s wandered into the wrong movie. Cold Pursuit is actually an American remake of the Norwegian thriller Kraftidioten (2014) and its English title belies its genre sophistication. The film starts slowly, splitting into three story strands, and gradually acquires a mounting suspense along with a profoundly dark sense of humour. The best jokes are saved for last, such as when the chirpy receptionist at a fully-booked hotel tells a contingent of Native Americans they they’ll need a reservation.

 

Although set in the snowbound, nondescript town of Kehoe in Colorado, the film retains an air of Nordic sang-froid as the director Hans Petter Moland asserts his credentials, building on the original, which he also helmed. There’s a noticeable lack of melodramatic music, a low-key, almost frostbitten ambience and a deft narrative tenor shaped by the film’s editor, Nicolaj Monberg.

 

Visually, the film’s opening sequences take the breath away, as Liam Neeson’s plough sends up clouds of snow across a minimalist canvas of straight white lines. The metaphor is enforced when the pivotal contraband proves to be heroin and a poster of The White Stripes is seen on the wall of Liam Neeson’s son, Kyle. Kyle, though, is not around for long, his murder by an enforced dose of heroin sparking Neeson’s quest for revenge. Although 66, Neeson gamely punches his way up the hierarchy of the local drug cartel, wrapping his corpses in chicken wire before dumping them off a gorge. The wire, he reckons, will allow fish access to his victims before natural gases buoy them to the surface. This guy is no fool.

 

While Neeson conveys his characteristic monolithic mien, supporting characters add plenty of colour, from the slick drug kingpin (Tom Bateman) agonising over his young son’s diet to the rookie cop (Emmy Rossum) unafraid to shake up the status quo. There’s also a priceless cameo from Elizabeth Thai as the possessive, indignant wife of Neeson’s phlegmatic brother (William Forsythe). And the list goes on. To clinch its irreverent inventiveness, the film chalks up a running inventory of the deceased, complete with the symbol of a cross and the character’s nickname. And, for the final hurrah, the closing credits list the actors in “order of disappearance.”

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Liam Neeson, Tom Bateman, Tom Jackson, Emmy Rossum, Domenick Lombardozzi, Julia Jones, John Doman, Laura Dern, William Forsythe, David O'Hara, Nicholas Holmes, Benjamin Hollingsworth, Raoul Trujillo, Elizabeth Thai, Manna Nichols.

 

Dir Hans Petter Moland, Pro Finn Gjerdrum, Stein B. Kvae, Michael Shamberg and Ameet Shukla, Screenplay Frank Baldwin, Ph Philip Øgaard, Pro Des Jørgen Stangebye Larsen, Ed Nicolaj Monberg, Music George Fenton, Costumes Anne Pedersen.

 

StudioCanal/Summit Entertainment-StudioCanal.

118 mins. UK/Norway/Canada/USA/France. 2019. Rel: 22 February 2019. Cert. 15.