Even though it only happens every now and again, it’s always very interesting when a filmmaker decides to do a remake one of their own films. There’s many different reasons why this does happen: 1. the filmmaker wasn’t happy with the original version of the film so they felt that they could improve upon it by making it again. 2. the filmmaker felt that they could do something completely new and fresh with the material. 3. they were offered a lot of money by the studio to direct it again or 4. If it’s a foreign language film, simply remake again for an English speaking audience (sometimes even to the point of simply doing just a shot-for-shot version of it). Over the decades we have seen many directors take either one of these approaches to various degrees of success to how they remade their own films (Alfred Hitchcock with the 1934 & 1956 versions of THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, Michael Man with L.A. TAKEDOWN and HEAT, Cecile B. DeMille with the 1926 & 1956 versions of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS etc.). The latest filmmaker to join this list is Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland with his latest film the Liam Neeson action/crime vehicle COLD PURSUIT, which is an English language remake of his acclaimed 2014 film IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE.
The film tells story of Nelson Coxman (Liam Neeson), who lives and works happily as snowplow driver in the Rocky Mountains resort town of Kehoe with his loving wife Grace (Laura Dern) & son Kyle (Micheál Richardson). One day Coxman’s life is turned upside down when he finds out that his Kyle has died of an apparent drug overdose. Distraught by his son’s death and his marriage crumbling, Coxman decides to commit suicide. However before he goes through with it, Coxman discovers from Kyle’s friend Dante (Wesley MacInnes) that his son was actually murdered by a local cartel that’s lead by Trevor ‘Viking’ Colcate (Tom Bateman). Now with a thirst for vengeance, Coxman covertly goes after the cartel and kills off each member one by one. As his men begin to start ‘disappearing’, Viking thinks that the killings are being orchestrated by a rival Native American cartel led by a man named White Bull (Tom Jackson). After Viking kills White Bull’s only son in retaliation, it starts off a war between the two cartels. However once Viking finds out that Coxman is the one who has been killing his men, things begin to get little complicated.
Now before I go into my review of COLD PURSUIT, I should state that I actually haven’t yet seen the original 2014 Norwegian film that it is a remake of IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE. The original film had been on my radar for sometime now and I was going to watch it in preparation before seeing this remake. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to in the end, so I’m pretty much going to judge this remake on its own as a stand alone film. Which was probably a good thing anyway since I can go into it completely blind. So what did I think of COLD PURSUIT? I have to be honest: this film was definitely was not what I expected at all. Based on the trailers I just assumed that this film was going to just another fun straightforward action film but instead, it feels more like a Coen Brothers film than anything else. I can definitely see viewers being befuddled by this film due to its weird, subversive and quirky nature (especially when compare to than other action films that Liam Neeson has appeared in before) but for me personally, it those qualities that are the main reasons why I enjoyed it so much as I did. What really struck the most about the film is that despite being a major Hollywood film, it definitely has the tone and feel of a European film through and through. This is definitely due to director Hans Petter Moland, who clearly brought his Norwegian filmmaking sensibilities to this American remake of his earlier work. The way how he approaches many scenes throughout the film (whether they are the action set pieces, dialogue heavy scenes or comedic moments), just didn’t feel like anything that I’ve seen recently in a mainstream action film. For his first major Hollywood directing debut, Moland did a really good and confident job filmmaking wise from beginning to end.
As the film’s main character “Nelson Coxman” (yes, his last name does become a running gag throughout the film), Liam Neeson gives yet another strong performance. Even though he has starring in a lot of action films in pass years since TAKEN, Neeson never fails to bring a lot of gravitas to the roles that he plays in these films and delivers that once again in COLD PURSUIT. Although unlike the other action roles that he has portrayed recently, the script gives Neeson a lot of pretty interesting layers to “Coxman” to dig into when compared other the straightforward characters that he has played before. Plus he’s backed by a solid supporting cast, who each bring solid turns in each of their roles (it helps that the script makes each one feel like they could easily be the lead of their own story). The standouts among them being William Forsythe (Brock ‘Wingman’ Coxman), Tom Jackson (White Bull), Julia Jones as (Aya) and Tom Bateman as the film’s villain “Trevor ‘Viking’ Calcote”, who thought brought a lot of quirkiness and menace to the character. Plus the script by Frank Baldwin was was humourous and unpredictable, Philip Øgaard’s cinematography was beautifully done and the score was really solid too. However as much as I did enjoy the film, it does suffer from a couple of flaws. Even though the script is quite well written, it does get really muddled and over-plotted at it goes along. Plus the pacing can be a bit off at times, some of the quirky humour does fall flat on occasion, the action set pieces could have been a lot of better handled, some supporting characters come across as racial stereotypes (“Ahn” (Elizabeth Thai), the wife of “Wingman”, is the worse case of this) and I felt both Laura Dern and Emmy Rossum were very underused in their roles as “Grace Coxman” and “Officer Kim Dash” respectively.
Overall while COLD PURSUIT definitely won’t be for everyone but for me personally, I found to be a really fun, engaging, bizarre and darkly comedic action/crime film. Like I said earlier it’s definitely was not the film I was expecting when I sat down to watch it, but I really ended digging it for what it is because of that. In fact it has made me even more intrigued to finally check out the original Norwegian film IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE to see how it compares to it. If you’re someone who enjoys a Liam Neeson starring action film (or any Coen Brothers style films) as I do, I would say that this is definitely worth checking out. Sure its tone can be a little off-putting at first but once when you get onto its wavelength, I think that you’ll have a pretty good time with it.
COLD PURSUIT is now currently playing cinemas across Australia.
Review by Bede Jermyn