Liam Neeson stars in this underappreciated, darkly comic revenge tale, now available on home video
Cold Pursuit got a pretty muted reaction, attributable in part to this phase of Liam Neeson’s career where he’s settled into somewhat standard action fare, but more so due to timing that coincided with controversial remarks he made admitting to racist attitudes he had once held.
Without going too deep down that particular rabbit hole (his comments, voluntarily made, were clearly in condemnation of those racist attitudes and reflective of repentance), the impact to Cold Pursuit was definite. Which is kind of a shame, because, turns out, it’s actually pretty great. It’s one of Neeson’s best roles in years and is a decidedly different sort of tale than the samey-samey action pictures that have come to define his recent filmography.
Long-range snowplow driver Nels Coxman’s life is shattered upon the death of his son, attributed to a drug overdose that no one saw coming. His wife can’t cope (Laura Dern in a brief but impactful role), his marriage implodes, and all hope seems gone until some semblance of direction comes in an unexpected form: revenge.
Even with the expectation of a black comedy, I wasn’t prepared for how dark the film would be coming out of the gate: early on we get one of its most harrowing images as a suicidal Coxman bites down on the barrel of his rifle, seconds from ending his life before an intervention of fate changes his plans.
Turns out Kyle wasn’t a druggie, and his death was no accident. He was set up, in a chain of command that goes all the way to the top of the biggest drug empire in the region under the command of one Trevor “Viking” Calcote, and you can bet Liam Neeson will climb right up that chain.
Cold Pursuit is not really the film I was expecting based on the trailer, which plays with more of a gleeful and action-oriented edge. It’s a comedy to be sure, but with a biting, sorrowful tone. The biggest action beats are featured in the trailer, and the story is really more about the hapless violence and trail of death that follows Coxman’s vendetta.
Yes, hapless. Coxman is smart, tough, and competent, but he’s no John Wick. He’s a normal guy at the end of his rope, somewhat bumbling his way through an alien world of gangsters and hitmen with crime novels serving as his guideposts. He makes a lot of mistakes and things don’t really go according to his poorly-laid plans at all, while some lucky accidents end up helping him along.
While Coxman is the focus, we take plenty of time to visit not only Viking’s gang, but their rivals/partners in a Native American crime clan that gets falsely implicated in the new string of murders, igniting a grisly (and sometimes hilarious) gang war. There are a lot of colorful characters that make up this world, and their personalities and foibles are a lot of the fun. Similarly, we spend some time with a couple of local police (with some shades of Fargo) as they investigate the mayhem.
I was surprised to learn that not only is Cold Pursuit a remake of a Norwegian film called Kraftidioten (English title In Order of Disappearance) starring Stellan Skarsgård, but one of a very rare group of films: remakes of foreign-language films helmed by the original directors (eg, Takashi Shimizu’s Ju-On and The Grudge, Ken Scott’s Starbuck and Delivery Man).
I haven’t yet seen the original film, so I can’t comment on the similarities or differences in the two versions, but from a cursory visual perspective they appear to share a very similar aesthetic. The film takes place in Colorado, but this snowpocalyptic vision of Denver and the Rockies might as well be Alaska.
Minor quibbles aside, this film really hit me in the right way and if you like Liam Neeson or black comedies, I’d definitely recommend giving it a shot. Usually when I call a film mean-spirited it’s meant as a criticism, but Cold Pursuit manages to pull off “mean spirited in a good way”.
Cold Pursuit is now available on home video from Lionsgate. The 4K version which I’m reviewing also comes with a Blu-ray disc and Digital Copy insert. Like most Lionsgate titles, the 4K Blu-ray is comprehensive presentation, including the special features on-disc rather than relegating them to the separate Blu-ray. My copy came with an attractive glossy metallic slipcover with rounded corners as is typical of Lionsgate’s UHD releases.
This UHD disc looks fantastic (as does the Blu-ray); the wintry environs invite a sense of remote isolation and melancholy which are key to the film’s themes. I’m not sure if this one is a 4K master or a 2K upgrade (according to IMDB the film has a 4K DI; other sites are reporting it’s an upscale), but either way it’s a solid presentation. I’m now anxious to check out the original Norwegian film to see how it compares both in visuals and narrative.
Special Features and Extras
Cold Pursuit includes a decent slate of extras, including a BTS featurette, deleted scenes, and interviews.
Welcome to Kehoe: Behind the Scenes of Cold Pursuit (26:49)
Deleted Scenes (5:23)
Interviews with the film’s star and director. The questions are simply shown on screen with the interviewee’s response, so they feel a little little stop-and-go and one-sided rather than conversational.
- Liam Neeson Interview (8:46)
- Hans Petter Moland Interview (8:20)
Theatrical Trailer (1:09)
Home Video Trailers for Our Kind of Traitor (2:00) and The Commuter (2:08), and a theatrical trailer for John Wick 3 (2:18)
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All 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the Blu-ray disc (not 4K) with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.