Someone contact NASA because I think I just discovered Alien Life! It’s taken the form of the screenwriter for this week’s film: “Cold Pursuit.” Though he possesses a human form, and name, I’m 65% certain he’s from another planet, because this confusing mess of a movie feels like it was written by an alien.
“Cold Pursuit” stars Liam Neeson as Nels Coxman, a snowplow driver and honored citizen of the year in the town of Kehoe. His casual life is soon shattered, however, when his son’s body is discovered, having died of a heroin overdose. Though his grieving wife (Laura Dern) refuses to believe him, Coxman knows his son was no drug addict. Taking matters into his own hands, Coxman intends to hunt down the people responsible for his son’s death.
On paper, the plot sounds like a simple but fun film. We’re all familiar with revenge stories, they’re tales that date all the back to the 1500s. There have been a number of memorable films and shows in the genre: “Death Wish,” “Taken,” “The Punisher,” “John Wick,” “Kill Bill,” the list goes on. And with Liam Neeson as the main hero for “Cold Pursuit,” you’d think this would be a fun film. At least, it should’ve been.
The movie’s first flaw comes with the setup behind the son’s death. In a revenge story, there’s always a reason, motive, or consequence that occurs which leads to a pivotal character being killed off, which leads to our main hero traveling down the road of vengeance. A thug killed them in a botched robbery. An important figure assassinated them for knowing too much. Or even just a power-mad villain who thinks they’re untouchable and kills for fun. There’s usually a setting or structure in the narrative the audience can understand so we know why it’s happening. Except “Cold Pursuit” couldn’t even get that right.
We’re barely three minutes into the movie, and before any relationship or conflict can develop, the son’s already dead. In fact, I think the son is in the movie for a total of five minutes, and that includes when he’s just a corpse! But the biggest kicker is the reason for his death is beyond confusing because the movie barely addresses it. “Cold Pursuit” is so focused on Liam Neeson getting his revenge, that it couldn’t be bothered to give a proper reason. In fact, I think the movie only offers an explanation for why the son was killed in some throwaway dialogue—an hour into the movie! No revelation, no storytelling, no conflict, it’s just said in some dialogue and never brought up again. The “Death Wish” films had better motivation behind their plot, and keep in mind most of them amount to Charles Bronson’s friends being offed within the first five minutes. Don’t be friends with Charles Bronson people.
It’s not just the son’s death that confounds me, however. The movie has numerous scenes where I found myself burying my face into hands as I groaned, “Why is this happening? Who are these people?” The movie has some kind of problem where it can’t focus on one particular character. There are multiple scenarios where we spend a good ten minutes focusing on minor and impartial characters—like the gang’s thugs, the police, all of which waste the film’s time or give us a few bits of info that could’ve easily been condensed into a few minutes. Heck, there are some scenes that you think are going somewhere, except they just end!
The writing is so jarring and bad, that it leaves enough plot holes to sink an aircraft carrier. It’s like they took an entire season of a show and tried to squeeze it into a two-hour movie. And as far as the action goes, there’s little to none until the final act. Here’s a major spoiler, for an ‘Action Crime Drama,’ Liam Neeson’s character only kills three people. Sure, his actions lead to the deaths of others, but we only see him take out three guys. And that’s within the first hour of the movie! After that, Liam’s character is gone for a good half hour while we spend it following people we don’t care about. Oh, and what about Laura Dern’s character you may ask? She’s hardly in the movie. In fact, she’s only in the film for barely half an hour, then is just gone for the rest of the picture. Her actions in the movie are only: being the wife, the grieving mother, and that’s it. She pretty much could’ve been written out of the movie and nothing would have changed.
It feels like there were some good ideas that could’ve worked, except it was handled by a screenwriter who couldn’t be bothered to do a second draft—and I use ‘screenwriter’ loosely. Then again, the writer barely even had to work; this isn’t even an original story. “Cold Pursuit” is actually a remake of a 2014 Norwegian film, “In Order of Disappearance.”
“Cold Pursuit” is rated R for strong violence, drug material, and some language including sexual references. This movie is nothing more than a waste of time and money. Even now it’s wasting more by using precious ink and paper that could’ve gone to something better. Like maybe a better movie! The final score for this insult is a 4.5 out of 10.