As a Citizen of the Year recipient deals with the sudden death of his only son, he shows that a new path he could never have envisioned for himself is easier to take than expected.
First Schindler's List heavyweight Liam Neeson gave us Taken, and then came aeroplane drama Non-Stop, which was 'Taken in the air', followed by The Commuter, which was 'Taken on a train', and now we have 'Taken in the snow', aka Cold Pursuit.
OK, so that’s not totally accurate because Hans Petter Moland’s new Neeson vehicle isn’t just mindless, leave-your-brain-at-the-door action; it’s funny, quirky and pretty dark.
Neeson plays Nels Coxman, a snowplough driver in the super snowy fictional Colorado town of Kehoe, where he leads a pleasant existence with his pot-smoking wife Grace (Laura Dern) and their baggage-handler son Kyle (newcomer Micheal Richardson), in their idyllic log cabin-type home up in the hills.
His lovely life, topped off when he is honoured with Kehoe’s Citizen of the Year prize, is soon shattered by the murder of his son.
Not understanding the death, which the cops and coroner attribute to a heroin overdose, Nels begins to get answers when, mid-suicide attempt, he finds Kyle’s colleague Dante (Wesley MacInnes) hiding out in his workshop.
This chance encounter leads the quiet and stoic driver on a new path, one he never envisioned he’d take.
Nels becomes a lean, mean killing machine, murdering everyone involved in his son’s death.
Starting with the low-level crooks who carried out the hit, he slowly and methodically works his way up to the high-ranking mobster, Trevor 'Viking' Calcote (Tom Bateman), who ordered the kill, all under the noses of cops John 'Gip' Gipsky (The Wire’s John Doman) and keen newbie Kim Dash (Emmy Rossum).
But Viking is no easy target, and is constantly surrounded by henchman, like the long-serving Mustang (Domenick Lombardozzi, also from The Wire) who’s hiding secrets of his own, Sly (David O'Hara) and Bone (Gus Halper).
And to complicate things further, Viking’s Native American drug associates, led by elder White Bull (Tom Jackson), also get caught up in the bloodshed.
A remake of 2014 Norwegian film In Order of Disappearance, Cold Pursuit is so much more than an action thriller. It’s darkly comic, with hints of the Coen Brothers throughout, especially the snowy Fargo-like setting.
Neeson has become the go-to action man for churned-out box office fodder in recent years, but this one sets itself apart.
The man himself does great in the role of Citizen of the Year-turned-murdering avenger Nels - and although his Northern Irish brogue slips in every now and again - Neeson excels in the role.
The criminals and Native American crew are also perfectly cast, and Doman and Rossum bring a lot of the comedy as the cops.
A special mention is required for young actor Nicholas Holmes, who plays Viking’s sweet son Ryan, who happily gets kidnapped by Nels and forms a unique (and pretty speedy) bond with the grieving father.
Neeson has been the subject of intense scrutiny in recent weeks, after controversial interview comments led to accusations of racism, but don’t let this overshadow the film, which is a lot funnier and quirkier than expected.
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