Despite a catalogue of action films that suffer from sameness, Liam Neeson is an anomaly amongst action greats with his rise to superstardom being celebrated in a way that other legends in the genre (we see you Bruce Willis) are not.
Neeson’s latest entry, Cold Pursuit, stands out as a breaker of the generic action film cycle with the end result proving to be more of a film than the trailer sells it as.
Set within the city of Kehoe, described as a town people go to for white powder in both ski and drugs, Cold Pursuit follows the actions of a small town experiencing a slew of murders.
Cold Pursuit kicks off into gear roughly twenty minutes in, which allows director Hans Petter Moland in his most mainstream film (which also happens to be a remake of his 2014 Norwegian film In Order of Disappearance), to create a sense of isolation in both character and location. What then follows is the convergence of many stories, from the unmistakably Irish Neeson’s path of justice for his murdered son, a warring feud between rival drug syndicates, and local police officers trying to make sense of the situation.
The screenplay has a dark sense of humour that is very Tarantino-meets-Martin-McDonagh-esque, with there being a big focus on dialogue that feels like passing conversation to build character authenticity, mistakes having consequences and acts of extreme violence followed up with comedy which saves the film from becoming overly serious.
Despite many of the actors featuring briefly (and excusing one bad American accent that sounds like Heath Ledger’s The Joker), none of the characters feel wasteful with each of them being mostly realized and given an opportunity to leave an impression. Neeson is in fine form in a role that channels his action roots whilst also adding layers of dimension thanks to the film’s focus on substance over action.
George Howe’s score utilises a harmonious combination of struck chords and electro that both builds intensity in scenes and creates a sense of separation between Neeson’s snow-cowboy and the city.
Having a crime film based in the snow a la Fargo (1996), Insomnia (2002) and Wind River (2017) creates further complications for characters who are unable to adapt to the terrain. Cold Pursuit builds upon this trope (blood splatter films impeccably against snow) with the use of snowfall establishing mood in the film, ranging from moments of deceptive calmness to a greater symbolism of rage being like a destructive avalanche that is all consuming.
Despite the current controversy surrounding Neeson which may see the film face difficulty at the box-office, Cold Pursuit is a solid albeit derivative action film elevated by strong characters and humour.
Liam Neeson has stated this will be his final action movie role.