★ ★ ★
Another Liam Neeson action movie, another father on the rampage. But “Cold Pursuit,” an English language remake of the Norwegian film "Kraftidioten," is no “Taken.” There are special skills, piles of dead bodies and the story is as far fetched as Neeson’s deliberately trashy kidnap movies but the new film has something else, a dark sense of humour.
In the film’s early moments we see Colorado snowplough driver Nels Coxman (Liam Neeson) honoured as Citizen of the Year for his efforts in keeping the roads clear and the townsfolk of his small community safe. On the heels of this civic honour comes the worst news of Coxman’s life, the death of his son by heroin overdose. Nels and his wife (an underused Laura Dern) are in disbelief. Refusing to believe their son was a drug addict Nels starts asking questions that lead him to a criminal network run by Trevor Calcot a.k.a. Viking (Tom Bateman), a second-generation drug lord with a hair trigger temper.
Seeking revenge, Nels changes from mild mannered snowplough driver to lean, mean killing machine. He stops ploughing snow and starts ploughing bad guys, making quick work of the Viking’s underlings—each eulogized in a title card that probably would have been more effective had the film stayed with the original translated name “In Order of Disappearance.” With several low level baddies dispatched he gets snowed in when he takes aim at the Viking himself.
The carnage continues, in part due to Nels’s brother (William Forsythe) and former gangster and an unintended drug war between the Viking and power First Nations trafficker White Bull (Tom Jackson).
“Cold Pursuit” is a faithful remake of the Norwegian film, keeping the slow burn of the original and the dark humour. It’s not slap-your-knee funny but it certainly has a lighter tone than you’d expect from a revenge drama. Neeson isn’t known for his comedy chops but his resourcefulness with a snowplough as weapon is ridiculous enough to raise a smile or two. It doesn’t feel fresh—the spectre of Tarantino hangs heavy over the proceedings, with title cards, surf music and a casual attitude to the violence—but the icy atmosphere juxtaposed with the hot-blooded thirst for vengeance makes for a diverting enough crime story.