Director Hans Petter Moland helms this remake of his 2014 Norwegian film, “In Order of Disappearance,” a reference to the increasing body count in this latest entry in the Liam Neeson revenge action genre. This time out, Neeson is Nels Coxman, a snowplow driver in the tiny Colorado Rockies resort town of Kehoe, whose son is murdered by a drug gang.
The movie starts out with Nels pursuing the culprits up the drug chain, one by one, but it soon broadens to involve rival drug gangs, small-town police and Nels’ corrupt law-enforcement brother, called Wingman.
If that sounds familiar, you may be a fan of the TV series Fargo, three seasons of which have specialized in how ordinary people can disrupt the business of criminal enterprises. Cold Pursuit is basically an entire season of Fargo compressed into two hours, complete with that show’s signature blend of darkly dry humor, bloodily violent confrontations, and visually striking locations.
As in Fargo, the main characters tend to fall into one or two categories: absurdly over-the-top (a slick psychopathic drug lord called Viking, posing as a sophisticated playboy) or stoically noble (both Nels and Viking’s rival boss, a Native American admirably played by Tom Jackson). There’s even a perky young female cop (Emmy Rossum), a sweetly innocent boy (Viking’s son, played by Nicholas Holmes) and a secret same-sex romance.
The movie knowingly traffics in stereotypes, whether those drug-dealing Native Americans, Laura Dern’s briefly seen frustrated wife, Grace Coxman, or Wingman’s Vietnamese wife. Director Moland and his screenwriter, Frank Baldwin are clearly trying to deconstruct these tropes and characters’ reactions to them, but the portrayals are still likely to grate on many viewers, distracting them from the narrative rather than contributing to it.
The movie does well at maintaining its grimly arch tone and delivers a twisty, smartly plotted story with an especially satisfying finale. It’s also got a lot of nicely quirky moments, such as Nels reading a snowplow catalog aloud to a child or Grace’s brilliant letter to Nels explaining her departure.
Cold Pursuit may not quicken the pulse as often as some past Neeson actioners, but it’s fairly successful in reproducing the Fargo formula in its own irreverent fashion.
Grade: B. Rated R. Now playing at Biltmore Grande and Carolina Cinemark