Movie Review – Cold Pursuit (2019)

Oh well.  Let’s get this over with.

BQB here with a review of Liam Neeson’s last semi-watchable film, Cold Pursuit.

It’s unfortunate that the man with the particular set of skills decided to whip out a proverbial revolver and shoot himself directly in the foot before this film, because it would have been better for Liam Neeson to have gone out on a high note.  I don’t what he was thinking when he publicly declared to the press that back in the day, he walked around looking to beat up any black man when one black man raped his friend but oh well, thanks for the honesty, Liam, now go sit in the corner with Mel Gibson.

Hollywood loves something that works and will try to milk it forever if they can.  Earlier this decade, Neeson, known mostly for historical dramas, wowed us in Taken, being the ex-CIA spy who uses his skills to rescue his kidnapped daughter.  It was something new, the beginning of a, “Uh oh, those idiots messed with the wrong guy” type of action genre that Neeson excelled at.  Mild mannered men who would gladly kick back and let dust grow on them until they are wronged…and then they kick ass and take names.

The trailer of this film promises us just that.  Here, Neeson plays Nels Coxman (the connotation made fun of throughout the film), a mild mannered snow plow driver who, to our great delight, owns a vast array of heavy, dangerous snow removal equipment which can easily double as bad guy murdering devices, chief among them his enormous truck with an equally large plow.  When Neeson is shown using said truck to knock a car off the road with the ease one might flip an unwanted veggie off of one’s plate, I was sold.

Now I want a refund.  The first twenty minutes start off as you might expect.  Nels has the kind of life most good men yearn for.  Loving wife (Laura Dern), a son, a business, respect of his community.  Alas, when the young lad is iced by a Denver, Colorado drug running syndicate, it all goes to shit.  Nels trades in his polite ways and starts murdering his way up the gang’s food chain, picking off baddies one by one, longing to eventually get to the big boss and take out the operation for good.

Had that line been pursued, the movie would have gone down as a fun thrill ride.  Alas, like Bugs Bunny, it takes a wrong turn at Albuquerque.  Many wrong turns, in fact.

A comedy of errors ensues and to the film’s credit, there’s a very dark, unsettling, just below the surface version of dark humor.  The gang’s leader, Viking (Tom Bateman, who has a future as a breakout star and go to guy if Hollywood ever needs someone to play a pretentious douchebag as he does it so well here) assumes that a rival Native American gang has broken a long truce and both sides go to war.  Tom Jackson provides Viking’s nemesis as the stoic White Bull, who with actions instead of words, shows us he’s a bit mixed up.  During a trip to a typical, overdone, luxury ski resort, White Bull one second seems pleased by the atmosphere then remembers this was once his peoples’ land for as far as the eye could see and screams.

The rival factions go to war and Liam is forgotten for long periods of time.  A running gag in the form of “In Memoriam” cards ties the film together.  Every time a baddie is rubbed out, his name runs solemnly across the screen.  Most of the times you see the murder.  Occasionally, you’re not sure what the prospective killer is about to do with the prospective victim in his midst until you see the victim’s name appear.

It’s an ensemble cast, featuring some fairly big names, as well as a number of actors you know you’ve seen in many other films but can’t quite place their name.  William Forsythe, for example, was the king of playing back-up, douchey/tough guy henchmen and or cops in 1980s action flicks.  Ergo, it is somewhat fitting that he plays Nels’ brother here…as well as a long retired drug dealer whose name Nels had all but forgotten.  If there’s one good part of the flick, it gives Forsythe a long awaited chance to shine and for a brief minute, step outside of the lead’s shadow.

There are a lot subplots and characters that go nowhere, as if the film were a pot and someone, somewhere said, “I like candy sprinkles!  Let’s throw that into the stew!  Wait, I love cucumbers!  Let’s put that in and pig’s feet?  You can’t go wrong with those!  Hey, here’s a leftover pizza slice from last week!  Gotta have it!”

For example, Emmy Rossum and John Doman play a old cop teaching young cop combo.  In Nels’ hometown of Kehoe, Emmy as Kim Dash, wants to crack the string of murders case wide open.  John Gipsky, the older veteran advises to leave things be.  As long as the gangsters aren’t targeting civilians, let them murder each other while small town life continues.  You wait, and wait, and wait for some moment when against her older partner’s wishes, Dash manages to get the duo caught up in the middle of the shitstorm but it never, ever happens.  Oh, spoiler alert.

Same thing with Domenick Lombardozzi, the bald headed Italian tough guy who wowed us in The Wire, wasn’t so bad in the latest season of Frank Donovan and has a strange way of making audiences feel like he could equally give them a hug like a big old teddy bear and also smash their faces with a tire iron.  He play’s Viking’s top henchman, Mustang.  He seems to be bonding with the boss’s son and there’s an inkling that he thinks the boy deserves a better life than the one the crime boss can provide.  Then you learn that Mustang is gay and he and his lover, another henchman, are keeping their love quiet from the boss.  You wait and wait and wait for the scene where Mustang and his love take the boy, adopt him and run off into the sunset but, well keep waiting.

I could go on.  There’s so much build up in all of the characters and so much, nothing.  Ultimately, the movie is like the hodge podge plate you might take away from a pot luck dinner.  You’ve got a piece of lasagna, some asparagus, a piece of meatloaf, a deli sandwich, some jello, a glob of tuna noodle casserole and three potato chips.  All good stuff, but rather pointless together, and in such small bites, not one of them alone can make you happy, and all of them mixed together just makes you sad.

STATUS: Moderately shelf-worthy…only for cool snow removal equipment murder scenes.  Also, the scenic views of the Rocky Mountains, which seem like living in the Hoth like weather would be worth it.

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