Those going into Cold Pursuit (2019) expecting another movie that’s essentially Taken: The Sequel starring Liam Neeson will probably be disappointed. Sure, there is a revenge plot and Liam does get to kill some guys, but this film hardly takes itself so seriously. Instead of a gritty action revenge movie, fans of dark comedies will find themselves chuckling early as they hesitantly figure out exactly what they’re watching. However, once the film cements itself in its comedic side, it never lets up with the insanity.
Cold Pursuit’s humor won’t work for everyone, but it clicked for me
Nels Coxman (Neeson) loses his son, Kyle (Micheál Richardson), to an apparent drug overdose, creating a schism with his wife, Grace (Laura Dern). They both take to grieving in their own way, but Nels turns his sights towards the party responsible for Kyle’s death. He follows one lead after another, pursuing a drug lord whom he sees as responsible.
It may seem hard to believe that the premise of this film could lend itself to comedy. Director Hans Petter Moland starts early with an awkward scene that the audience at my screening was unsure how to react towards. Nels and Grace have to identify Kyle at the morgue. His body is pulled from the freezer, and we and the Coxmans have to wait as the medic jacks the gurney up high enough. It reminds me of the scene in Family Guy when Peter hurts his knee that goes on for so long that it becomes funny again. However, this is a somber scene where parents are identifying their dead son; none of the cast acts any differently than one would expect during a moment like this one, and yet, it’s clearly meant to get laughs. It didn’t, but the movie is patient with its tone, knowing that by the end you’ll be grinning…or disgusted, depending on your comedic sensibilities.
There are a number of people and plots involved in this movie. Several have relatively small parts, and others have parts that seem unnecessary. A side plot with the Kehoe Police Department heavily centered around Emma Rossum’s character seems essentially pointless when all is said and done. While the scenes with Rossum and her older partner (played by John Doman) are enjoyable, it is still a plot line that does little more than add a few extra laughs and pad the runtime.
Tom Bateman plays Viking, the Drug Lord at the head of the operation Nels has set his sights on. I was concerned that he would be a cheesy villain from the trailers, but he ended up being my favorite part. His character is maniacal, while still seeming practical with his business. Early on, we see him as a loving father – if not an extremely twisted one – who is so obsessed with protecting his son that he tosses snack cakes out a moving car because they contain corn syrup. Bateman gives such a great performance as a villain you love to hate that it’s apparent he clearly belongs in a comic book movie at some point.
The gangsters all have nicknames that add to the humor, and the title cards that each death earns becomes an enjoyable motif. Cold Pursuit was a fun crime comedy in the same vein as In Bruges (2008) or Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005). After last year’s The Commuter (2018), I’d almost skipped the newest Taken “sequel” – but I’m very glad I didn’t. Cold Pursuit earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.