With Liam Neeson at the helm, ‘Cold Pursuit’ pays homage to masculinity

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Grade: 5.0/5.0, if you felt personally attacked by the Gillette commercial
3.0/5.0, if you are anyone else

Liam Neeson is back again for another helping of “overprotective dad kicks the living crap out of extremely dangerous and highly professional criminals” — a Neeson trope that audiences have enjoyed time and time again.

“Cold Pursuit” is a dark action-comedy adaptation of Norwegian film “In Order of Disappearance,” and surely written by whichever men inspired the Gillette commercial. The film stars Neeson as Nels Coxman, whose phallic name pairs elegantly with the enormous, phallic snow plow he drives through a Colorado blizzard whenever he’s feeling particularly rageful. When his son is mysteriously found dead, Coxman launches a frosty chase, seeking revenge on a racist drug lord, Viking (Tom Bateman). In the process of his chilly hunt, Coxman leaves a trail of bodies, unintentionally triggering a violent turf war between two rival drug cartels. This frigid search is one driven by greed and vengeance as much as it is by misunderstanding and absurdity.

Once viewers settle into the film’s tone, which is a rather satisfying blend of Tarantino-esque gratuitous violence and satirical, hard-hitting one-liners, there’s a lot to enjoy in “Cold Pursuit.” Immediately from the opening sequence, we’re shown a bleak, merciless environment, accompanied by a cheerful, peppy score from composer George Fenton. It’s the perfect cue for anyone who was expecting big-budget car chases and sexy international adventures that they are not, in fact, getting the sort of adventure they thought they were opting in for.

Naturally, the cast and crew of “Cold Pursuit” play to their strengths. There’s familiarity in watching Neeson throw a greasy henchman against the wall, before gruffly demanding for the locations of men with ridiculous code names — “Tell me where to find Santa!” and “Where is Speedo?” are two instant classics.

Viking’s son Ryan, portrayed by Nicholas Holmes, will likely prove to be a fan-favorite character. After being kidnapped by Coxman, Ryan requests that he be read a bedtime story before going to sleep. When Coxman obliges, Ryan tenderly falls asleep on Coxman’s chest, but not before whispering to Coxman, “Have you ever heard of Stockholm syndrome?”

Some gags feel fundamentally unnecessary — namely, the film’s treatment of women. There are, for example, two characters who speak in a language other than English for a few moments of the film. While the male character’s dialogue is accompanied by English subtitles, the female character’s lines are not, directly implying that the comments from the women in this film are inherently irrelevant.

Academy Award-nominated actress Laura Dern, meanwhile, was brought in to play Coxman’s wife, only to be written out as having abandoned her husband while he’s out assaulting drug dealers. She leaves a card for Coxman on their bed, but the note is revealed to just be a blank piece of paper. Because, you know, the writers have no idea what a woman would actually say to her husband in this situation. Better to leave the card blank.

In a similar vein, there doesn’t seem to be any real narrative reason that Viking needs to be so profusely racist. It’s not as if we need him spouting racist ideologies and partaking in microaggressions to know that we’re supposed to root against him. He won’t let his son eat food with sugar, for Christ’s sake — we already resent him. While the film industry can play a key role in condemning prejudice, “Cold Pursuit” doesn’t feel like the time or place, especially in light of Neeson’s recent racist comments, which ultimately lead to the cancellation of the film’s red carpet premiere.

You also wish it were at least slightly more difficult to kill people throughout this gosh-darn film. The death toll racks up quickly, which ultimately softens the impact of killing off characters in the first place, although it does work to remind us that no one is safe.

While its flaws shouldn’t be ignored, “Cold Pursuit” should, of course, be considered in the context of its satirical roots. It’s rare for a film to be this unapologetic in its approach, and while it exudes toxic levels of testosterone, there’s much hilarity to be found in the way it’s executed.

Contact Shannon O’Hara at [email protected].