‘Cold Pursuit’ deftly follows dads’ revenge desires

Liam Neeson, right, plays a grieving father who faces off against a drug lord (Tom Bateman). Contributed by Doane Gregory, Summit Entertainment/Lionsgate

Liam Neeson, right, plays a grieving father who faces off against a drug lord (Tom Bateman). Contributed by Doane Gregory, Summit Entertainment/Lionsgate

It’s not often that directors get a second crack at their own work. But Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland has undertaken the task of remaking his own 2014 revenge thriller, “In Order of Disappearance,” for American audiences, now titled “Cold Pursuit.” With Moland behind the wheel, he can ensure the preservation of the film’s dance of tone, which is bone-dry, ice-black, darkly violent and laugh-out-loud funny. Liam Neeson stars as Nels Coxman, an unassuming Colorado snowplow driver avenging the death of his son at the hands of a ruthless Denver drug syndicate.

The snowy setting and gratuitous bloodshed recall the Coen brothers’ Midwestern masterpieces — especially “Fargo” — and while Emmy Rossum sports a fur cap and a can-do attitude as a small-town cop, she’s not doing Frances McDormand. The similarities are there, as well as hints of Tarantino and even moments that recall Jonathan Glazer’s gangster drama “Sexy Beast,” but “Cold Pursuit” is entirely its own animal.

Neeson does not stray far from the wounded-heart father routine he’s perfected since “Taken,” which has become cultural shorthand for “vengeful dad.” Part of the fun of “Cold Pursuit” is watching Nels maintain that earnest composure as the world spins out of control around him, becoming increasingly more preposterous as he peels back layers of the crime organization in his small ski resort village of Kehoe.

The genius of “Cold Pursuit” lies largely in the supporting cast, who plays the oddballs against the ramrod straight Citizen of the Year Nels. Tom Bateman is a breakout, snarling his way into infamy as the snide playboy drug kingpin Viking. As a father, he is the polar opposite of Nels — a cold, calculating control freak — and Bateman leans into the absurdity of his character, drawing the most laughs but maintaining a shred of realism.

The plot is complex but the story is simple. It’s a tale of fathers and sons, of blood on the snow, and hearts black as ice.The film asks you accept the lost lives of the victims as some kind of sacrificial offering in the pursuit of justice for a son.

“Cold Pursuit” doesn’t have the existential ponderings of the Coens, nor indulge too much in splashy outlandish pleasures of Tarantino. There are hat tips and head nods, but rather, the film boasts a bleakly nihilist Scandinavian outlook. One might wonder what it all means, but to ponder the questions of existence and morality in Kehoe is a fool’s errand. It’s almost a bit fun that “Cold Pursuit” creates a world in which we don’t have to — where we can let go of morality and convention for a couple of hours and delight in the darker side of life.


“Cold Pursuit”

Grade: B

Starring Liam Neeson, Laura Dern and Tom Bateman. Directed by Hans Petter Moland.

Rated R for strong violence, drug material, and some language including sexual references. Check listings for theaters. 1 hour, 58 minutes.

Bottom line: Tale of fathers and sons, but with a dark side