Cold Pursuit is a film that, at its greatest potential, could have taken the revenge film and turned it on its head. Perhaps it did in the film In Order of Disappearance, the Norwegian film Cold Pursuit is based on (Full disclosure: I haven’t yet seen it). However, the remake, while having potential, never quite fully realizes it.
In Cold Pursuit, Liam Neeson plays Nels Coxman, a quiet loner who drives the local snow plow and leads a simple life with his wife (Laura Dern) and son (Micheál Richardson). As the film opens up, Coxman is presented with the Citizen of the Year award. The next day his son is found dead from an apparent heroin overdose. Coxman doesn’t believe the cause of death could be true and, when he finds a clue that it may not be, he sets off on a journey of revenge.
The body count quickly starts to add up. Each death marked by a title card with their name and a symbol of their religion, which is fun at first, but grows more cumbersome as the bodies begin to stack up. There is a whole cast of characters, all to varying degrees of compelling: there's the child too smart for his age who helps his drug dealer father's henchmen with fantasy football and loves classical music. Laura Dern for her part deserved far better. After the death of her son, she just looks forlorn and disappears very early in the film.
It's possible that it was due to the direction of Hans Peter Morland, who also directed the original In Order of Disappearance, that the film never struck a clear tone between farce and thriller. It's also possible that something got lost in translation between the original and remake. After all, we’ve seen it happen before with remakes. Regardless, trying to have one foot in both farce and thriller sacrificed either being satisfying.
The Snow Plow that Coxman drives is filmed very well starting off as a tool to do a job and turning into a menacing machine, snow flying to the sides as he hunts down the henchman who killed his son. One particular scene is very well done, reminiscent of Steven Spielberg’s Duel, as the henchmen nervously checks his mirror as the Snow Plow looms ominously behind him.
I am very curious to watch the original and see if, perhaps, he gets it right there. The potential to send up the revenge film is certainly ripe for the picking, but the tone never quite strikes the right balance. There is, however, potential in this material and hopefully it’s fully realized in In Order of Disappearance.