Cold Pursuit (1 star)

Cold Pursuit

Liam Neeson is out for revenge yet again in an offensive and cliched remake

Genre cliche and offensive stereotypes pile up in drifts in Cold Pursuit, a thriller which hangs solely on Liam Neeson's gruff on-screen persona. Hans Petter Moland is at the helm of this remake of his 2014 Norwegian original In Order of Disappearance but something may have been lost in translation; in moving the action to America, Moland is perhaps aiming for cultural satire. Regardless, by painting in such off-colour broad strokes, anything approaching nuance or insight is buried under an avalanche of unrelenting stupidity.

Neeson is Nels Coxman, the snowplough driver who keeps the small fictional town of Kehoe, Colorado moving, and who has been awarded Citizen of the Year for his efforts. He enjoys a quiet life with his wife, Grace (a blink-and-you'll-miss-it turn from Laura Dern), until his teenage son Kyle (Micheál Richardson) turns up dead – a sequence played oddly for laughs, and indicative of the film's confused tone – apparently from a heroin overdose. Learning that Kyle was mixed up with local mobsters, headed by the cold-blooded 'Viking' (Tom Bateman), Nels sets out on a one-man revenge mission to slaughter every person involved.

And so follows almost two hours of watching Nels beat, strangle and shoot a procession of comic book villains, the name of each of his victims daubed across the screen in Coen brothers-like script, in keeping with the film's failed attempts at Fargo-esque black humour. The screenplay gives us no logic for his actions beyond his vigilante approach to grief and there's no explanation as to how, why or even if Kyle got on the wrong side of Viking, no indication that, before his marauding escapades, Nels was anything other than a model citizen. Unlike other Neeson outings like Taken, The Grey or The Commuter, there's no method. There's only madness.

There's also no justification for the film's rampant racism and sexism. Every single person on screen is crudely drawn – from Bateman's aggressive, posturing Viking, peddling toxic masculinity to his son, to the local drug-dealing, gambling Native Americans and Nels himself, defined only by his bloodlust. Token gay and African-American characters are treated like sideshow attractions, the butt of obvious jokes.

Worse is the appalling treatment of women. There's the shrill, finger-wagging Asian wife of Nels's brother. There's Viking's ex, who pops in every so often to berate him and be at the receiving end of his sexual intimidation. And there's local cop Kim Dash (the wonderful Emmy Rossum, from the US remake of Shameless), whose attempts to show some tenacity are met with condescension and inappropriate banter from her much older male partner.

'What does it matter?', will surely come the cry. 'This film isn't pretending to be anything other than a blunt-edged actioner, another chance for Neeson to flex his particular set of skills.' Yes, that's true and, yes, it's a film about horrible people doing horrible things. Possibly, it is even intended as a spoof of a genre which trades in these outdated stereotypes, and simply hasn't lent hard enough into its comedic elements. None of this however, is any excuse for the way in which Cold Pursuit revels in its aimless, bigoted dumbness, and gleefully encourages its audience to do the same.

General release from Fri 22 Feb.

Cold Pursuit

  • 1 star
  • 2019
  • UK / Norway / US / Canada
  • 1h 58min
  • Directed by: Hans Petter Moland
  • Cast: Emmy Rossum, Liam Neeson, Laura Dern

Nels (Neeson) is a snowplough driver who keeps his small fictional Colorado town moving, but when his teenage son (Richardson) turns up dead, he goes out for revenge. Two hours of Neeson beating, strangling and shooting people, with double handfuls of racism and sexism, make for an aimless, bigoted, dumb waste of time.