Torn between the contrarian genres of a revenge thriller and a black comedy, ‘Cold Pursuit’ expectedly turns out to be neither. It is a Hollywood film by a Norwegian director, Hans Petter Moland, remaking his own Norwegian film – ‘In Order of Disappearance’ – in English. It is about a series of murders in a cold, snow bound landscape. The original title is a joke, naturally, and reverses the notion of the traditional credit title – ‘In Order of Appearance’.
The action films in the ‘Taken’ series have tended to typecast the Irish actor Liam Neeson as some sort of obsessive-compulsive avenger. In ‘Cold Pursuit’ he continues this enormously popular persona. Here he plays a snowplow driver, distraught by the death of his son, purportedly by heroin overdose. He believes the actual cause of death to be very different, and so does his own vigilante investigation, sentencing and execution, as he used to do in the ’Taken’ movies.
In between the action, is the humour. There are two rival drug dealer gangs in ‘Cold Pursuit’, who have kept away from treading on each others toes until now. One is led by an Anglo-Saxon called Viking (Tom Bateman) and the other by an American Indian called White Bull (Tom Jackson). All the gangsters in the film have pseudonyms that are chosen to suit their character or racial types. When an African American hit man called ‘Eskimo’ comes to deliver a hit job he is asked about the choice of his given name, and he explains that any black dude who dares to come to such a cold town is, naturally, referred to as an Eskimo.
The humour is a bit of a stretch, and, at times, can be construed as racist. When White Bull tries to check into a hotel, he is asked by a receptionist if he has ‘reservations’, and refused, initially, because he doesn’t. There is a whole play on ‘reservations’ in the hotel, and this so called humour is based on what we know to be an historically loaded word for American Indians.
Indians of the South Asian variety are not spared either. The Indian taxi driver is asked to change the tacky music he plays in the car, and has it deducted from his tip when he doesn’t. Every time someone is killed, a bell tolls, and we we see a graphic with a gravestone and a cross, with the victims real name, along with his gangster alias. Finally, at the end of the film, an entire cemetery appears, with mourners clad in black, set against the white snow.
But when the Mafioso start laughing at the name of the Liam Neeson character, Nelson (Nels) Coxman, the movie seems to have taken things a little too far. Extreme violence and bad jokes are an uneasy mix, and ‘Cold Pursuit’ has plenty of both. The film is disappointing, and Neeson has made an unwise call by acting in it.