Cold Pursuit manages to set itself on a different path than you might expect from the trailers for the film. It looks like another Liam Neeson movie where an aging man kills a bunch of people with a special set of skills. In a way, that is true here but Hans Petter Moland has directed a thriller with a dark sense of humor that gives Cold Pursuit a vibe all its own.
The film opens with an Oscar Wilde quote. That should be enough to signal that this isn't Taken 4. The quote well chosen summarizes the film's sense of humor. It reads "Some cause happiness wherever they; others whenever they go." After the murder of his son, snowplow drive Nels Coxman (Neeson) transforms himself into the worst part of anyone's day who run across him. He sets out to find and kill the men responsible for his son's death.
Cold Pursuit is set in the quiet town of Kehoe, Colorado. Nels is a good man at the beginning of the film but slowly becomes a hardcore killer. The men who killed his son are members of a Denver drug cartel. Each character that we meet from this underworld is given a nickname, something that becomes a bit of a running joke. The film employs a gravestone-esque title card each time someone is dispensed with. Initially, this is a somber motif with the death of Nels' son. Soon it becomes a source of dark humor as Nels kills and kills.
The films thugs and villains are all a bit cartoonish. This helps to emphasize the dark humor the film uses frequently. Director Moland is obviously a big fan of the Coen Brothers as they are the clearest influence here. The silliness of the villains hits its peak with Viking (Tom Bateman) who is a spoiled psychopath. The character is ridiculous but so is the film and it all comes together to create a fun if troubled ride.
The biggest issue the film has is its treatment of women. Laura Dern plays Nels' wife and she is so underwritten that the film quickly finds a way to remove her from the plot. Many of the film's villains have vile views on women. Some of this can be laughed off but there is so much pre-MeToo era talk here that you might think the film was written in the 1980s.
Cold Pursuit is much better than anyone might expect it to be. It is a silly film but one that is aiming for fun and injects a twisted sense of humor into what could have been a dour affair. The film is shot beautifully. I also enjoy how tired all the fighting and killing makes Nels. It is refreshing for a film to continually acknowledge that Neeson is older and can't kick butt without getting winded. Moland is remaking his own film here and he has made some key improvements. The result is something worth checking out.