Movie review: Liam Neeson goes super vigilante -- again -- in blackly comic 'Cold Pursuit'

 
 
Updated 2/7/2019 7:21 AM
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  • A Colorado snowplow driver (Liam Neeson) goes on a vigilante rampage to avenge his son's death in "Cold Pursuit."

    A Colorado snowplow driver (Liam Neeson) goes on a vigilante rampage to avenge his son's death in "Cold Pursuit."

"Cold Pursuit" -- ★ ★

You gotta appreciate a vigilante action thriller that ends with its cast members listed in the order of their "disappearance."

Practically everybody in Hans Petter Moland's English-language remake of his own 2014 Norwegian thriller winds up choked, shot, slashed, stabbed, crushed or turned into ground beefcake by the unassuming winner of Kehoe, Colorado's "Citizen of the Year" award, Nels Coxman.

The actor bearing this ridiculous punchline name is Liam Neeson, who, at 66, clearly intends to usurp the "Oldest Movie Vigilante" title from Charles Bronson, who made his last "Death Wish" sequel in 1999 at age 73.

Neeson's Nels doesn't appear to have any particular set of skills for his supplemental vigilante career.

But when he discovers that a drug ring caused the "accidental" overdose death of his son (Micheal Richardson, Neeson's son with Natasha Richardson), this salt-of-the-earth snowplow driver goes from salting county roads to assaulting everyone he confronts while working his way up the criminal chain-of-command.

At the top presides snooty crime boss Trevor "Viking" Calcote (Tom Bateman), a narcissistic sociopath and worst dad of the decade to a super smart and sensitive son Ryan (Nicholas Holmes).

Viking notices his employees disappearing around the time he must deal with rival Native American drug cartel boss White Bull (Tom Jackson), on the warpath after Viking's men killed his son.

Obviously, "Cold Pursuit" strives for something more than manipulative vigilante wish fulfillment.

The violence-soaked tale (based on Kim Fupz Aakeson's original screenplay) tells of the grief and guilt of fathers unable to protect their sons from a land governed not by laws, but by retributive justice.

The movie -- something like the western-inspired black comedy "Death Wish" filtered through "Pulp Fiction" glibness -- takes a jab at European arrogance when white Colorado residents regard Native Americans as invaders on their own turf.

(In a shop, White Bull sadly examines one of many Native American blankets tagged "Made in China.")

Despite being equipped with all the proper elements to create a "Fargo"-esque masterpiece (each chapter title includes the name of Nels' latest late interrogation subject), "Cold Pursuit" gets blackjacked by an increasingly sluggish pace.

Apparently, editor Nicolaj Monberg declined to be as ruthless as the vigilante being edited, robbing "Cold Pursuit" of the brisk and breezy narrative its subject demands.

Neeson plows through this familiar path (call it the road already "Taken" three times) with stoic determination and hair that keeps changing from dark brown to sandy.

Laura Dern's suffering wife departs the movie early, after Nels spends more time being an avenger than husband.

Emmy Rossum's idealistic, energetic Kehoe Police rookie Kim Dash nicely fills that void, comically contrasting with her low-key, world-weary veteran partner Gip Gipsky (John Doman).

They have fun, even if they don't have cool nicknames like the bad guys: Speedo, Limbo, Mustang, Santa, Bone, Smoke, Avalanche, War Dog and Windex.

• • •

Starring: Liam Neeson, Tom Bateman, Emmy Rossum, Tom Jackson, Laura Dern

Directed by: Hans Petter Moland

Other: A Summit Entertainment release. Rated R for language, sexual references, violence. 118 minutes

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