Cold Pursuit triggered a chilling case of deja vu. Not just because it’s another Liam Neeson revenge thriller. But because I’d seen the exact same movie before, in 2014 – a foreign film out of Norway called In Order of Disappearance (“Kraftidioten”), about a mild-mannered snowplow operator named Nils Dickman who sets out to avenge the mob-related murder of his son. Cold Pursuit is an American remake, made by the same director (Hans Petter Moland), with a few minor alterations. And I mean minor. The main character’s name has been changed to Nels Coxman (Neeson), and he’s a snowplow operator in Colorado. The narratives, the action, the motivations, the gallows humor, and the high body count remain essentially the same, as do the creatively varied ways in which people die.
I vaguely remember watching In Order of Disappearance and feeling like it might never end. That same feeling returned with a vengeance as I watched Cold Pursuit, in a cold theater, on a bitterly cold day. In both versions, each successive death is punctuated by an on-screen ‘in memoriam’ for the newly departed – mostly bad guys with nicknames like Limbo, Eskimo, Smoke, Mustang, and Sly. How many bad guys are there? Expect to plow through two hours of carnage for that answer.
The cast of Cold Pursuit is quite solid, though the female characters are sorely under-developed including Emmy Rossum as a rookie detective who smells trouble brewing in her small resort town, and Laura Dern as Nels’ wife Grace, who tires of her husband’s lack of communication skills in the aftermath of their son’s death. The most compelling guy to watch is Tom Bateman as a drug kingpin named Viper. He’s the baddest of the bad, and the ultimate target of this cold pursuit.
Cold Pursuit is a bit like Fargo meets Taken. Nels is a man of few words with a ‘particular set of skills’ you wouldn’t expect a snowplow driver to possess, and a dry wry sensibility. That may be enough to satisfy non-discriminating Liam Neeson action thriller fans (The Commuter, Taken 3, etc.). But all in all, Cold Pursuit is not a fun watch. It can get cover-your-eyes brutal.
If you’re among the relatively small group of folks who saw the original In Order of Disappearance (with Stellan Skarsgard) and didn’t like it, you’ll definitely want to steer clear of Cold Pursuit. If you happened to really like the original, you’ll likely emerge from Cold Pursuit with a sense of wonder – as to why this cookie-cutter remake needed to be made at all.