Movie Review: ‘Cold Pursuit’ is a lukewarm Liam Neeson thriller

I have begun to notice a trend in Hollywood as of late; it seems every couple of years, Hollywood’s favorite Irish action hero Liam Neeson stars in a relatively low budget action thriller that is released at the beginning of the year. Usually, these thrillers star Neeson as a humble, goodhearted man with a particular set of skills, who gets wrapped up in a mystery while stuck in some sort of vehicle or location.

It is a perfect business model: the movies get made for around 30-50 million dollars, Neeson’s star power gets people into the theater, and with that, the studio has a small budget box office hit. For example, right around this time last year, I saw The Commuter (link to my original review), a movie where Neeson is a goodhearted man wrapped up in a conspiracy while stuck on a train. The movie’s budget was 3o million and it made more than 50 million dollars. Clearly, the business model works, but does it create good movies? Well, no. It does not, and Neeson’s newest thriller Cold Pursuit proves it.

I found Cold Pursuit pretty disappointing despite its fabulous trailer which is linked above. It showed Neeson driving a behemoth snowplow and shooting goons with a sawed-off rifle to the tune of Blue Öyster Cult’s (Don’t Fear) The Reaper. After that trailer, I was in. I was hyped. Then I saw the movie.

Neeson plays Nels Coxman, a snowplow driver, family man, and winner of the Citizen of the Year award in his small local town of Kehoe Colorado. However, Nel’s life begins to fall apart when his son is killed by a warring drug gang. One drug gang is led by “The Viking,” an equally pompous and annoying drug dealer who feels more like a trust fund baby with a strong hatred for carbohydrates than a feared and powerful drug lord. Tom Bateman plays the character like an exaggerated Bond villain and hilariously chews up the scenery in the process. The other gang is an Indian tribe with a taste for blood and cocaine. Unfortunately, nobody from this gang was particularly compelling or intimidating either.

Neeson gets himself tangled in the crossfire of these gangs, except his character disappears for what felt like the entire second act of the movie. Far too much time of the film is devoted to these gangs, and none of the time is spent expanding the not so colorful cast of characters that make up the gangs. Characters are introduced, then disappear, or get killed faster than Liam Neeson’s kids in the Taken franchise. Laura Dern plays Grace, Nel’s wife. The first few scenes make it seem like the two have a strong relationship, but as soon as their son dies, Grace takes off and doesn’t come back for the rest of the movie.

Everything about this movie feels lazy. There is a completely computer-generated shot of a car driving into a big city (which can be seen in the trailer at 29 seconds). This shot is used five different times in the movie, and it looks extremely unprofessional. Speaking of unprofessional, the editing in Cold Pursuit is some of the sloppiest I have seen. The film feels incomplete and disjointed; it feels like key scenes or lines of dialogue are missing. There is one scene where Neeson is standing next to a bad guy’s car. Neeson gets a bad guy to roll down his window and then reaches in to slam the his face into his own steering wheel. Then when it cuts, Neeson and the bad guy are both bloodied and on the ground next to Neeson’s snowplow which was parked almost 10 feet away. It is like the editor cut out the entire action scene.

Speaking of action scenes, all the action is bland and uninspired. It is a storm of unclear geography and shaky cam. I don’t recommend Cold Pursuit at all. While the supporting cast chewing up the scenery like bubble gum is hilarious, the rest is a boring Liam Neeson thriller.