Friday, May 17, 2019

"Cold Pursuit": two-paragraph review

2019's "Cold Pursuit" stars Liam Neeson and is directed by Hans Petter Moland, who directed the 2014 "Kraftidioten," a.k.a. "In Order of Disappearance," of which the current film is a nearly shot-for-shot remake (the Norwegian original starred Stellan Skarsgård in the Neeson role). Neeson plays the role of Nels Coxman,* a taciturn snowplow driver in Colorado whose primary job is to keep a crucial road open between the small resort town of Kehoe and the larger city of Denver. Laura Dern plays Coxman's wife Grace, and Micheál Richardson stars as Kyle Coxman, Nels's son. It's no spoiler to say that Kyle is killed at the beginning of the film; it's his death that sets events in motion. When the authorities find Kyle's body, they tell the distraught parents that Kyle—who had been working air cargo at a local airport—died of a heroin overdose. Grace sinks into despair, feeling that she never knew her son; Nels, for his part, refuses to believe his son was ever a druggie, and it becomes his mission in life to find out what happened to Kyle, and to exact revenge on the boy's killers. The rest of the story recounts Nels's campaign to take down a drug cartel as he fights his way up the ladder to the big boss, a smug son of a bitch nicknamed Viking (Tom Bateman, who has an awesome radio voice).

"Cold Pursuit" was apparently billed as a black comedy. It's based so closely on the 2014 Norwegian "Kraftidioten" as to be practically the same film, which makes me wonder—as I often wonder whenever I see an American remake—why the fuck this film was even made. It's not horrible, as remakes go: "Cold Pursuit" has a lot of heavy hitters in it, including powerhouse character-actor William Forsythe and chiseled/grizzled Raoul Trujillo, whom you might remember from his muscular performance in "Apocalypto." That said, I saw enough clips of the 2014 film to realize that little imagination had been spent on making the American version of the story. The main difference is that the drug cartel that rivals Viking's cartel is run by Native Americans. Director Moland doesn't seem to know what to do with the Native Americans, either: he sometimes plays them for comedy, and sometimes for pathos, occasionally evoking the not-so-ancient history of the arrival of the white man in North America, and the disaster that befell American Indians as a result. I was bitterly reminded that I wasn't watching "Wind River," a powerful story that actually takes Native Americans and their plight seriously. The way I see it, "Cold Pursuit" did have its darkly funny moments, but it was full of implausibilities that put it in the same ballpark as "Braven," and the script missed a whole raft of opportunities for character development: Grace Coxman comes off as little more than a quietly hateful bitch, and the rapport between Viking's son and Nels, while cute, hints tantalizingly at something deeper. All in all, "Cold Pursuit" felt more like a half-assed reminder of superior films than a complete film in and of itself.

*The dick jokes regarding Coxman's surname are obvious and plentiful. In the 2014 "Kraftidioten," the protag's surname, just as subtle, is Dickman.

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