(France/UK - 2019)
Directed by Hans Petter Moland. Written by Frank Baldwin. Cast: Liam Neeson, Laura Dern, Tom Bateman, Tom Jackson, Emmy Rossum, Domenick Lombardozzi, Julia Jones, John Doman, William Forsythe, David O'Hara, Nicholas Holmes, Benjamin Hollingsworth, Michael Eklund, Raoul Trujillo, Michael Richardson, Gus Halper, Arnold Pinnock, Bradley Stryker, Wesley MacInnes, Elizabeth Thai, Aleks Paunovic, Glen Gould, Michael Adamthwaite, Kyle Nobess, Nels Lennarson. (R, 118 mins)
An almost scene-for-scene English-language remake of the 2014 Norwegian film IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE by the same director (Hans Petter Moland, who also helmed DEPARTMENT Q: A CONSPIRACY OF FAITH), COLD PURSUIT is perfectly-tailored for the now-decade-long "revenge thriller" phase of Liam Neeson's career (the actor has said this might be his last film of this type). Its opening hijacked by the fallout of an honest but ill-advised Neeson revelation on the press junket--and really, who better to judge a reactionary, knee-jerk response to a violent incident involving a close friend from over 40 years ago by a young man who came of age in the late 1960s and early 1970s during the sociopolitical upheaval of The Troubles in Northern Ireland than uber-woke and perpetually-offended Vulture and AV Club contributors in their mid-twenties who may not even be aware of Neeson's career before TAKEN?--COLD PURSUIT would, at first glance, appear to be the now-customary winter Neeson revenge offering. But if you've seen IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE or are at least familiar with its black comedy elements, it's something else entirely. Thanks to the genre expectations that come from Neeson rather than the original film's Stellan Skarsgard, COLD PURSUIT is an irreverent, witty, and frequently laugh-out-loud absurdist revenge thriller that feels like an in-his-prime Charles Bronson starring in a Coen Bros. movie. It works at its own pace and on its own wavelength, and everything about it just feels wonderfully offbeat and a bit off-kilter. It's a risky gamble for those expecting another TAKEN and it won't appeal to everyone, but once you're in sync with its oddball stylings and rhythms--it takes some time before it's clear that you're supposed to be laughing at most of this--it's an inspired blast filled with clever callbacks to earlier incidents and numerous visual gags, and it's vividly brought to life by Neeson and a terrific ensemble cast.