Rarely do directors get to remake their own films. Perhaps one of the most famous iterations of this is Alfred Hitchcock remaking The Man Who Knew too Much two decades after the original. Or, you could even point to Michael Mann’s masterpiece Heat, which was essentially a remake of a made-for-tv film Mann did six years prior. For Hans Peter Moland, Cold Pursuit is a remake of his own 2014 film In Order of Disappearance. From his original, not much has changed. Stellan Skarsgard plays Nils Dickman in the original. Liam Neeson plays Nels Coxman in the new version. Though it may be unfair to judge Cold Pursuit to its superior original film, it’s hard not to.
Moland swaps out Serbian gangsters for Native American ones, and regardless of this being a remake, puts out story beats that are all too familiar. Neeson’s Nels Coxman is the standard mild-mannered, family man who plows the roads of a small Colorado resort town. His son is murdered by a ruthless drug lord and it sets off a bloody and unflinchingly violent revenge story. Picture Taken, but with more blood, bad dialogue and a punishingly bleak landscape. Moland’s aesthetic is ultimately a pitfall of the film. It’s stark and doesn’t really add anything to the story other than to serve as a complementary piece to the tone of the film.
Neeson is fine in the role like he always is. What surrounds him is truly bad dialogue, excessively violent moments and a really awful performance by Tom Bateman. Bateman plays “Viking”, a paranoid and cartoonish villain who aims to control every aspect of his own son’s life so he doesn’t become soft. He wants his son to be overly masculine and the alpha male by encouraging violence and not allowing him to eat junk food. When Nels begin to pick off members of his unit, Viking suspects it’s the members of a gang of Native Americans led by a man called White Bull. Cold Pursuit devolves into a “shoot ’em up” thriller that is devoid of any stakes unless you haven’t seen any of Neeson’s similar entries into this niche.
Some moments work, but ultimately, the movie feels as bleak and tensionless as it’s aesthetic. I yearn for the days where Neeson does more films like Widows and fewer iterations of Taken. Parts of the film are indeed fun, and the action sequences are fairly entertaining. I guess my gripes with the film are two-fold. Moland doesn’t seem interested in a thoughtful remake, but more on making a quick dollar from an American audience who loves Liam Neeson and Americanizing certain aspects of his original. Moreover, it’s just too repetitive in the canon of not only Neeson but early year action films of the past. Cold Pursuit is a movie you’d watch if you found it on cable or Netflix, but not something worth going to the theater for.
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