Nels Coxman (Liam Neeson) had a settled life in this Colorado town, married to Grace (Laura Dern) with a teenage son he doted over and a steady job keeping the dangerous roads around the region safe in his snowplough. For this service he has recently been awarded Citizen of the Year by the grateful locals, and at the ceremony he is characteristically modest, for he rarely gets excited, certainly doesn't get angry, and is happy to continue much as he always has. Then tragedy strikes: his son is found dead of a heroin overdose, and he and Grace must identify the body at the morgue. But Nels is adamant that his son was not a "druggie" - so what has really been happening?
Cold Pursuit was the remake in English of the Norwegian comedy drama In Order of Disappearance, directed by the same man, Hans Petter Moland, and with much the same pace and sense of humour. It was safe to say unless you were a very big fan of Liam Neeson, there was no real reason to watch this if you had seen the original, for they more or less hit the same beats, made the same jokes, and allowed the characters to interact almost identically, it's just that now they were all speaking English instead of Norwegian. Add to that there was no basic improvement on what had gone before, you would be most recommended to ignore this one and go for its source, unless you hated reading.
Subtitles were an issue for twenty-first century audiences like never before, closing off whole nations' film industries to millions, nay, billions, of potential viewers, and that was a shame, but nobody was discussing that in relation to Cold Pursuit on its initial release. This was down to Neeson making what could best be described as a faux pas at a press conference to promote it, where he related a bizarre tale when asked if he could relate to the hero here's desire for vengeance. In what was an example of potential career suicide, Neeson claimed that in response to being told by a lady friend that she had been raped by a "black man", he had gone on the hunt for any black man.
With the intention of actually murdering him, whether this purported chap had committed any crime or not. He said this happened decades ago and was past these emotions, but the world's media - and social media - went ballistic, and Neeson wisely opted to lay low, his future as a mainstream leading man in doubt, though he still had some projects to be released, like the high-profile Men In Black: International. Excuses were made, but Cold Pursuit could legitimately be said to be the film that left its star's career completely up in the air, which almost completely eclipsed whether it was worth a look or not. Considering it did middling business at best, many heard the name Liam Neeson and evidently thought, "Do we want to see this guy's new movie? Nah!" which was a pity, as it was by no means a poor facsimile.
And there were more careers involved in it than the name above the title, all of whom understood the Fargo-like mood to the piece and adapted it to the American milieu with some efficiency, only offering it more emphasis than the relatively deadpan original. If anything, Nels' pursuit of revenge was like a production that Neeson may have been aware of since it was filmed in his native Northern Ireland: Alan Clarke's half hour television film Elephant, as that too depicted a succession of murders with pared-down background or extraneous business, though if anything that was even more focused in its violence than Moland's endeavours in this, and had an added political dimension too. The director had created his original as a reaction to the heroin deaths that plagued Norway in the wake of the war in the Balkans (heroin being an easy way to raise money for the participants), and that made In Order of Disappearance pretty potent as observation, but there was little of that in the remake. It remained an offbeat, fairly diverting thriller for people who hated subtitles and wanted to examine macho pretensions, nothing more, nothing less. Music by George Fenton.
[Studio Canal's Blu-ray has interviews and a featurette as extras.]