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Five Reasons Why Cold Pursuit Blows

February 10, 2019

Cold-Pursuit-poster-2It’s impossible to watch Cold Pursuit without seeing it refracted through the cracked prism of the horrific, idiotic racist revenge fantasy Liam Neeson recently confessed. But I tried. After all, it’s a remake of In Order of Disappearance, a 2014 Norwegian film (also directed by Hans Petter Moland) that I admired. And I’m a proud aficionado of Neeson’s vengeance oeuvre — not the formulaic Taken trilogy, but The Grey (which made my list of 2012’s best films) and 2015’s criminally underrated Run All Night.

But even if Neeson hadn’t made the most insensitive racial comments this side of Gov. Ralph Northam, there would still be no way but to conclude that Cold Pursuit is one of the worst — and yes, most racist — movies I’ve seen in a long time. Here’s why.

Liam Neeson is on auto-snowplow… er, pilot. In the aftermath of wife Natasha Richardson’s tragic 2009 death — eerily, from a fall on a ski slope — Neeson plumbed the depths of his familial grief in The Grey, Taken 1, 2 and 3, etc. But he’s played that note so many times now he just seems bored as a snowplow operator driven to wipe out the men responsible for the death of his son. The victim is portrayed by Neeson’s son, Michael Richardson, but he’s killed off so quickly (the better to get the plot’s sadistic gears grinding) that any possible emotional resonance is blown away.

Laura Dern is completely wasted. She’s one of America’s finest actresses, as she’s recently proven in The Tale and Big Little Lies. The fact that there aren’t enough good roles for Dern that she’s relegated to this glorified walk-on as Neeson’s stricken wife is yet another sad, searing indictment of Hollywood’s mistreatment of women.

It may be the whitest movie ever made. Moland overdoes the color-scheme motif: the snow, cocaine, a boutique of white wedding dresses, a hotel with white fur all over the furniture, a white woman dressed in white with a little white dog. We get it! Cold Pursuit moves the action from Disappearance‘s Norway to Denver and changes the Serbian drug gang to Native Americans, but even the Chief is named White Bull (and played by Tom Jackson, with a shock of white hair). The only major African-American character is called the Eskimo (Arnold Pinnock). He pointedly pronounces “ask” as “ax” and explains his nickname by citing people from “the hood” who said any “n—–” who moves to Colorado must be an Eskimo — itself an offensive term.

It’s not just racist, it’s misogynistic and homophobic, too. There’s a grotesquely steretoyped Asian character (Elizabeth Thai) who flips off Neeson while filing her nails. She’s the wife of Neeson’s brother (William Forsythe), a former mobster who reveals he met her when he went to a massage parlor to beat her up and ended up marrying her. Women, you can’t live with ’em, amiright? Just how white is this movie? Moland cherrypicks two alums of The Wire‘s peerless, multi-racial ensemble… and they’re two white guys! John Doman is stranded in a stock role as a grizzled cop, and Domenick Lombardozzi plays a gay thug who, in one scene meant to be comically shocking, kisses another guy. I haven’t been this appalled since I read Kevin Hart’s old tweets.

It aims for black comedy and misses the mark by a mile. Disappearance‘s dark humor gets utterly lost in translation. Moland wants to make a blood-soaked, sub-zero crime farce like Fargo; he even miscasts William H. Macy’s Shameless co-star, Emmy Rossum, as a Marge Gunderson-esque policewoman. But he’s no Coen Brother, much less Tarantino. Cold Pursuit isn’t The Hateful Eight. It’s just plain hateful. And it left me in a cold rage that would chill even Liam Neeson to the bone.

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One Comment
  1. There is really something wrong in current moviemaking. Is it greed? Lack of imagination? Is it always money? or young producers? Someone has to tell them, like you and and like this review. It’s turning us off and we’re turning our TVs off. (The movie was a real messenger at one time. Now it’s just noise.)

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