In his hands, a snowplow is a weapon of mass destruction.
The slick revenge actioner “Cold Pursuit” is full of dark humor and self-awareness. It’s based on the Norwegian “In the Order of Disappearance,” which also had Hans Petter Moland as its director (there is a clever nod to the original title during the credits).
Liam Neeson stars as Nels, a snowplow driver in Kehoe, Colorado. He’s respected so much he earns the award of Kehoe Citizen of the Year.
Nels and his wife (Laura Dern) have a son, Kyle (Michael Richardson, Neeson’s real-life son with the late Natasha Richardson). Kyle, an airport baggage-handler, is killed by a drug cartel over a shipment of cocaine.
After the autopsy, Nels learns his son died of a drug overdose. But he knows better, and begins to gather the identities of those involved. He also begins to dispose of the bodies in an interesting way (it wouldn’t be sporting to tell you too much about that).
Soon Nels becomes involved in a rivalry between two drug gangs. One of them is led by the vicious Trevor (Tom Bateman, “Murder on the Orient Express”) a wealthy drug lord who is in the midst of a custody battle over his soft-spoken, bullied son Ryan (Nicholas Holmes.)
Trevor tries to control the boy at every turn, whether it’s a special diet or assigning him to read “Lord of the Flies” as a kind of life guidebook.
Nels turns to his brother Brock (William Forsythe) for information and guidance, and begins to realize that his quest for vengeance will land him between two warring gangs.
Because of its foul language and violence, this is a grownups-only movie. Moland isn’t afraid to show blood, but he also wisely chooses to avert our gaze during some of the most gruesome deaths.
I love the way the characters, many of whom are oddballs or who have unexpected qualities that throw even the tertiary ones, are fleshed out with bits of character development that reveal enough to help us. I always love the title cards that pop up with each character’s name and alias after the demise of each one. Sometimes the title cards pop up in groups.
And of course there’s Neeson, who has played this kind of role so many times before, nearly always to the delight of the audience. Because it’s so irreverent, it’s almost a spoof of many of his other roles.
Neeson fans and those who like actioners in general will give a warm reception to this snowbound story about cold-hearted bad guys and their "dispatcher."