Cold Pursuit is Liam Neeson's best movie since The Grey, which isn't really a compliment
Clearly he should just continue to make all of his movies in the snow.
Liam Neeson has a reputation.
No, not that reputation.
The other reputation. The reputation for getting revenge for things.
He has been in other movies too, and some of them (The LEGO Movie, Widows, Silence) have been pretty good. But most of the 21st century has involved Neeson getting revenge for things.
It has been a little over a decade since he got revenge for someone kidnapping his daughter in Taken, and since then he has gotten revenge for someone giving him amnesia (Unknown), for someone kidnapping him (Taken 2), for someone ruining his flight (Non-Stop), for someone killing his friend's wife (A Walk Among The Tombstones), for someone killing his own wife (Taken 3), for someone trying to kill his son (Run All Night), and for someone ruining his train ride (The Commuter).
It is that reputation for revenge, and for being pretty tasty in a fight, that is the biggest problem with Cold Pursuit.
Neeson plays Nels Coxman, a nice guy who is essentially Mister Plough for a snowy Denver-adjacent ski resort town, who discovers that his son was killed by drug-running mobsters. Once his wife (a criminally underused Laura Dern) leaves him, his only focus is becoming a one-man killing machine, to get - yep! - revenge on anyone who had a hand in son's murder.
Cold Pursuit is a remake of cult Norwegian hit In Order Of Disappearance, and in the version, the lead character was named Nils Dickman (geddit??), and he was played by Stellan Skarsgård. His transition from model citizen to cold-blooded killer was more effective because Skarsgård simply doesn't have Neeson's already well-defined cinematic reputation for being pretty good at revenge-ing.
Once Neeson starts picking off some of the the lower level bagmen, head honcho Viking (a truly slimy Tom Bateman) believes it is the beginning of a turf war with the Native American mob, and everything effectively snowballs from there.
Anyone expecting another gruff action thriller might be surprised to learn that it actually skews closer to a dark comedy, sometimes hitting the tone absolutely perfectly, like the first, prolonged henchman death scene. It also sometimes gets too close to sub-par Tarantino or Guy Ritchie levels of wink-wink, nudge-nudge, too-clever-for-its-own-good comedy.
Mostly though, it is Neeson travelling around some lovely snowy vistas, and killing bad guys, which we've seen him do before, but this time the movie is very aware that Neeson is a 66 year old man, and old men killing young bad guys can be kind of funny.
The reason why The Grey worked so well is because it gave Neeson something to do other than just be a bad-ass. In that movie, he was forced to look into the yawning pit of his imminent death. Thankfully, Cold Pursuit gives him pretty much the exact same thing to do here, but replaces the existential crisis with pitch-black comedy. It is just a shame that only about half the jokes work.
Somewhere between Norway and Denver, some stuff clearly got lost in translation.
Cold Pursuit is released in Irish cinemas from Friday 22 February.
Clip via Lionsgate Movies