In the decade since Taken, Liam Neeson-kills-people movies have basically become their own sub-genre, adding a chapter as an action leading man to the actor’s long and successful career. These films aren’t necessarily known for their critical acclaim, but they are clearly profitable enough that they keep getting made. The next entry in the genre is Cold Pursuit from director Hans Petter Moland, which is a remake of his 2014 Norwegian film In Order of Disappearance.
Although the film doesn’t release for another week, the first reviews for Cold Pursuit are now coming in. So is the latest opportunity to see Liam Neeson beat people up and kill them in creative ways more Taken or Taken 2 and Taken 3? Well, according to Variety’s Courtney Howard, Moland succeeds in remaking his own work, even improving it in certain ways:
By pumping up the darkly comedic undertones, augmenting the frigid chill of the original, Moland’s terrific, riveting noir-tinged picture distinguishes itself from other rote, reductive remakes.
Although it hasn’t really been pitched as such in the trailers, a theme of the reviews for the film is how spot-on and pitch black the comedy is in the film. Some reviews are evoking the Coen Brothers and Fargo as a comparison. So while Cold Pursuit is an action movie, it is self-aware and knows how absurd it is, as Katie Rife highlighted in her review for AV Club:
Cold Pursuit knows that killing a man with a snow plow is a ridiculous macho fantasy, and it’s going to give it to you anyway—but not without a wink and a smile.
Forbes’ Scott Mendelson also found the movie’s dark sense of humor riotously funny and in his review he highlighted that Cold Pursuit isn’t just another action-film filled with one-dimensional characters and that’s what sets it apart.
What makes this movie shine is the quality of the screenplay…this film is filled to the brim with fully-sketched characters who are all the protagonists in their own respective life story.
Liam Neeson himself has wondered why he is still being cast as an action star at his age and it seems that Cold Pursuit almost offers something of a meta-commentary on that, as more of a character-driven crime film than a standard action flick. In his review for IGN, Witney Seibold highlighted this point, saying:
Cold Pursuit is partly a great action thriller, and Liam Neeson is still kicking plenty of butt, but the film is mostly an intriguing, relaxing, totally tuckered-out character study of old men running out of the energy required to run a criminal enterprise.
Many of the reviews are casting Cold Pursuit as more of a crime drama and a black comedy than as a straight-up action movie and while the result is a better movie than many Liam Neeson revenge movies, it may not be what audiences are expecting. The Hollywood Reporter’s John Defore suspects that although the movie may not have legs at the box office, it may still stand the test of time:
Offers ample violence but is not another post-Taken piece of grim vigilante wish-fulfillment. Confused expectations may put a damper on box office, but the film should have a longer life than many of Neeson's more generic action outings.
Although the reviews for Cold Pursuit are largely positive so far, there are still nits to pick. For The Wrap’s Alonso Duralde, the competing tones in this film work at cross purposes, succeeding on their own but not in tandem. He said in his review:
It’s the combo of dark humor and violence where the movie never quite reaches a balance. To be too jokey removes the stakes of the killings, and to be too grotesquely violent makes the laughs catch in the throat.
All in all, based on the early reviews, Cold Pursuit sounds like it is a win for Liam Neeson, working as something different for those tired of his action roles, while still having plenty of bloody and brutal violence. If you go in with an open mind and don't allow the trailers or Liam Neeson's previous action roles to set certain expectations, it seems like you'll have a good time.
Cold Pursuit opens in theaters on February 7. Check out our 2019 Release Schedule for all of the biggest movies heading to theaters this year.