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Monday 3 April 2023

Burl reviews Cold Pursuit! (2019)


By krim-kram and by the flurries of winters past, it’s Burl, here to review yet another picture featuring an aging Liam Neeson carrying vengeance in his heart! He’s done this oh so many times before – look at movies like Next of Kin and Darkman and Taken 2, and there you’ll see that old familiar figure of Liam Neeson with vengeance reliably lodged in his heart! And the picture under discussion today is more of the same, and it’s called Cold Pursuit!

This is not just a vengeance picture but also belongs to that subset of movies which are remakes of movies made a year or two earlier by the same European director who made the original, and usually the remake is the filmmaker’s entrée into Hollywood studio picturemaking! Think of The Vanishing, (and, ha ha, then forget it – the remake, anyway), or Funny Games! Cold Pursuit is a remake of the Danish-Norwegian comedeo-vengeance film In Order of Disappearance, which I’m pretty sure I’ve seen! And like all these remakes, bar, I think, none, the original is the better one!

Old Liam plays Nels, which seems like, but isn’t, an anagram for “Liam!” Nels is a solid citizen in a little Colorado mountain town: he’s the man who keeps the roads clear with his big shed full of plowing equipment, and for this he’s being recognized as Local Man of the Year, for which his wife, Laura Dern from Blue Velvet, is proud! But then we see how their son, played by Neeson’s real-life son I believe, has, through his airport baggage job and the shabby offices of a disreputable pal, become mixed up with a drugs gang, and thanks to a misunderstanding, is kidnapped and given a fatal overdose by the gang!

Neeson and Dern each react to this in their own way: Dern takes off for parts unknown and is never seen again, while Neeson becomes vengeance-crazed, turning to his retired-gangster brother, played by William Forsythe from Smokey Bites the Dust and Extreme Prejudice, for information and advice! The tone turns blackly comic as Neeson kills his way up the Denver crime hierarchy, and with each new notch on the belt comes an intertitle memorializing the dead party and listing his gangster nickname! Ha ha, this is a bit on the cutesy side – I recall it working better in the original, where the humour was allowed to be as dry as it needed to be and the little titles didn’t stand out as much as they do in this more studio-tooled, focus-grouped remake!

The nicknames are another running gag, with a puzzled Neeson quizzing his brother about them! But, like the obituary intertitles, this aspect seems nothing more than ornamentation added later to purfle the border of an otherwise ordinary crime thriller! Ha ha, but there are a few details which seem a bit more organically integrated, like the rival gang of Indigenous mobsters! And there’s a subplot involving the son of the main bad guy, a boy-faced mob boss called The Viking, who lacks any evident Viking qualities beyond a general ruthlessness; this subplot has a mild wackiness to it, and lends the picture a bit of dualism which, for the movie’s running time at least, serves as an acceptable substitute for complexity!

The revenge part works well enough, familiar as it is, though I was disappointed that Nels didn’t use his snowplow more! It figures into the last act a little bit, but not enough to make this picture anything more than a mildly eccentric and otherwise unmemorable crime picture, more notable for casting a shadow over the original foreign iteration than for any qualities of its own! Neeson does this stuff with an appealing stolidity, but he could pull that off in his sleep, and in several scenes seems to be doing so here! I say stick with the original version, or maybe Fargo, which did snowbound crime eccentricity better than any other picture I can think of; but I’ll give Cold Pursuit two Fruity Pebbles anyway!


  1. Even considering Hollywood remakes of foreign movies without the original director attached, the only one I like better is probly the Departed! I think there was one more I forgot about right now, perhaps a French comedy remake?

    Also, the Vanishing! What was that guy thinking with the new ending? I almost feel I should take it as an insult to American taste. But never assume malice when unintelligence will suffice!

    1. I always assumed the Vanishing mutilation was the result of studio tampering! Maybe someone legitimately believed North American audiences couldn't handle the bleak finale of the original!

      As for the French remake you're struggling to remember, I have two words for you: Buddy, Buddy! (Though I'm probably wrong on that - maybe you're thinking of Three Men and a Baby or The Birdcage?)