Review – Is It Chilly in Here? (“Cold Pursuit”)

Liam Neeson shouldn’t have kids. He’s forever having them either kidnapped in Taken, attacked by monsters in Clash of the Titans, or having a hit put on them by the mob in Run All Night! This movie is a remake of the 2014 Norwegian film, In Order of Disappearance, which you can add to 2019’s ever growing “remake/reboot” list. Sheesh!!
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Remember my review of The Upside where the director did a nearly shot-for-shot remake of the French film it was based on? Well, here we go again! Looks like first-time screenwriter Frank Baldwin and the original movie director, Hans Petter Moland, decided, “Screw it, let’s just do the same damn movie again, shot-for-shot, and add only a few tweaks here and there in the script”. I guess this Norwegian filmmaker has gone Hollywood, right?! This means if you read my review below, it’s pretty much sums up this movie exactly. BUT for the sake of irony, I’ll do my best here.

Say hello to Nels Coxman (Neeson), a quiet man and snowplow driver in Kehoe, Colorado. Even though he just won Citizen of the Year, his life is disrupted when his son (Micheál Richardson–Liam’s real-life son) dies from a heroin overdose at the hands of some nasty guys. Knowing his son wasn’t a druggie, he soon learns that he was murdered. Going on a blood-hunt, Nels starts to kill off anyone connected to his son’s death, and that means colorful street thugs known as Speedo, Limbo, and Santa are soon iced. But his REAL target is the town’s leading drug czar, Trevor “Viking” Calcote (Tom Bateman), a health-nut psycho who, if you gave him green hair, a white face, and jagged red lips, he could easily play the Joker!

Anyway, getting to him is too tough, so Nels asks his brother and ex-con, Brock “Wingman” Coxman (William Forsythe) for help. Brock suggests a hit-man named The Eskimo (Arnold Pinnock), but that plan goes south. With all these killings, Viking suspects his arch rivals in town, the Native American Indians drug cartel controlled by White Bull (Tom Jackson). Seriously? Indians are the villains here? Haven’t they suffered enough? This sparks a gang war between the two factions while Nels kidnaps Viking’s smart son (Nicholas Holmes) in an attempt to draw the drug lord into the open. Meanwhile, during all of this, two intrepid police officers (John Doman & Emmy Rossum) are looking into all the mysterious goings-on in their little town of Kehoe.

Eventually there’s the climatic shoot’em up finale where it desperately tries to be funny one last time. I’ve said it before, when a filmmaker attempts to duplicate their own original film into a Hollywood mainstream picture, they lose SO much in the translation, especially when the screenwriter is a newbie. I’m guessing Baldwin copied/pasted the original script and then made a few adjustments from there, because much of the dialogue is lifted word-for-word, which screws things up when Baldwin “spiced things up” with his own dialogue and scenes. The two don’t mesh evenly, plus his added sub-plot of the cops is wasted.

Worse yet, the director, not playing on his home-turf, rushes scene after scene, not giving his characters any care, nuance, or structure like he did with his first movie. Result? These characters are nothing more than cardboard figures. Nels has no depth, no soul, no passion at all here; it’s as if Neeson is acting on auto-pilot. The only actors with credibility are the co-stars. Forsythe is engaging, Bateman is over-the-top nuts, and even the 10-year-old kid, Nicholas Holmes, out shines Neeson; which not many can do. If you really want to see a great film that’s gripping and worth your time, see the original movie, In Order Of Disappearance; it’s currently streaming on Netflix

 
In Order Of Disappearance (2014)
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Never heard of this film? Not surprised. It’s a very dark Norwegian dramedy film starring Stellan Skarsgaard, whom you probably remember from the MCU franchise as Dr. Erik Selvig, the guy who helps out Thor and his pals. Well, in this movie he’s speaking his native tongue and being anything but hospitable.

Nils Dickman (Skarsgaard) is a reliable snow plow driver in the town of Tyos, Norway and, after just been awarded Citizen of the Year, learns that his only son has died, supposedly of a heroin overdose. Knowing full well that his son was no addict, his grieving turns to full-on, all-consuming rage when he finds out that he was killed by some drug hoodlums. With odd street names like Jappe, Ronaldo, and Strike, Nils goes on a one-man vigilante quest to hunt each man down and kill them, but first getting info on who ordered the hit on his son.

Pretty soon he finds out the man he wants is The Count, aka Ole Forsby (Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen), an unhinged sociopath & vegan who has custody of his tween son, Rune (Jack Sødahl Moland), an arrangement that his mother, Marit (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen), is none-to-thrilled about. Apparently needing help in whacking this Count, Nils contacts his ex-con brother, Egil, aka Wingman (Peter Anderrson) for some help in recruiting an outside hit-man. But things south and Nils is back to square one. In the meantime, the Count overreacts big time and thinks the local Serbians are moving in on his cocaine racket and decides to take action

This sets up a feud between his gang and the Serbians, which is run by the brutal eye-for-an-eye patriarch, “Papa” Popović (Bruno Ganz). But while these two warring factions are going to town, Nils decides the only way to draw the Count out into the open is to kidnap his son, Rune… which naturally makes the Count go ballistic thinking it’s the Serbians behind it all. It all comes down to a blood-bath free-for-all in the end and an unexpected conclusion that is wickedly charming and very odd.

In Norwegian with English subtitles, (you can see it on Netflix), this quirky little screenplay by Kim Fupz Aakeson takes you by surprise as small dollops of humor are interwoven with the murders being committed willy-nilly. Also funny are the title cards thrown up as each person is killed, as a sort of silent requiem for their death. Nice. The story isn’t so much a story of parental revenge, but also one of gang warfare and the socio-economic climate of their country, something refreshing in what you’d think would be just a routine bang-bang, shoot’em up film.

And ya gotta hand it to director Hans Petter Moland for having to film in the constant icy, snow-covered conditions of Norway; that could NOT have been an easy shoot. Bleak, stark, and all that whited-out contrast being the background to this movie, that looks about as dismal and dead as the face of Nils, as he grimly sets about his task of wiping out every person that had anything to do with killing his son. He only pauses a few times to break his macabre massacre, giving us a brief glimpse of the man that once was inside. It’s funny, but about as darkly funny as, say, Reservoir Dogs was funny.

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