Imagine Homer Simpson’s snowplough-driving alter ego Mr Plow was mad as Hell and wasn’t going to take it anymore, turning vigilante to clean up the streets and accidentally kicking off a Yojimbo-style mob war between two rival gangs, each blaming the other for the missing drug dealers our hero has disappeared. Sound familiar? Like maybe you might have seen this all before? Don’t worry, you don’t have déjà vu all over again, you have seen the generically titled Cold Pursuit before.

Revenge is a dish best served cold in Cold Pursuit, director Hans Petter Moland shifting the action from an Arctic Norway to a snowbound ski resort in Colorado and swapping out Stellan Skarsgård’s hangdog protagonist for Liam Neeson while keeping pretty much everything else the same in an almost scene-by-scene, beat-for-beat, English language retread of his own 2014 black comedy, In Order Of Disappearance (if anyone is interested, here’s what I thought of the original 4 years ago http://www.movieramblings.com/2015/01/29/dvd-review-in-order-of-disappearance/), even down to the condolence card titles that top each murder and the dick jokes about the hero’s name amusing the drug dealers (Dickman in the original becomes Coxman for the remake) while swapping the originals rival Serbian mob for a tribe of First Nation gangsters allows Moland to fleetingly comment on race as the First nations Godfather gazes wistfully at a display case of feathered war bonnets and tomahawks being sold as tourist tat in the mountain resort they decamp to for the film’s climactic shootout only to discovered they are all made in China.

Dark, violent and witty, despite it’s terrible title, Cold Pursuit is a lot of fun, retaining the original’s droll sense of humour and joy in the absurd – who doesn’t want to watch taciturn gangsters lighten up and frolic in the snow? And it’s always good to be reminded of Neeson’s charm and gift for comedy, his scenes with Viking’s young son whom he’s kidnapped among the best in the film as they discuss the Stockholm Syndrome and go for rides in his snowplough.

It’s a shame then that all the film will really be remembered for now is the bomb Neeson dropped during a press interview for the film, recounting a deeply personal story about race and revenge and the futility of violence which has seen the superannuated action man branded a racist. Regardless of whether you’ve read the interview in its entirety or just the snatched comments on Twitter, you’ll have your own views on the controversy, all I’ll say is that probably a press junket for your new black comedy isn’t the place to unburden yourself of that kind of emotive and divisive anecdote.

Crisply shot and cheerfully violent, despite featuring a talented (and grizzled) ensemble cast featuring the likes of William Forsythe, Michael Eklund, David O’Hara and the wonderful Domenick Lombardozzi (as a closeted gangster conducting a clandestine affair with a co-worker) you can’t help but feel Cold Pursuit is almost as superfluous as the women who flit through it, only Laura Dern making much of an impression as Coxman’s grief-stricken near-mute wife who exits the stage early in order to allow the boys to kill each other. If you’ve seen In Order Of Disappearance, there’s not a lot of point watching Cold Pursuit. If you haven’t seen In Order Of Disappearance, you should see In Order Of Disappearance.

Eccentric, funny and melancholy, Cold Pursuit subverts Liam Neeson’s crass, vengeance machine image even as his real life persona wedges his foot firmly in his mouth.

Movie Review: Cold Pursuit
3.5Overall Score
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