Cold Pursuit (2019) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4): A redundant remake starring Liam Neeson

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“Cold Pursuit”, which is the remake version of Norwegian film “In Order of Disappearance” (2014), is fairly watchable but not particularly necessary. Because I happened to watch the original version and then write about it a few days ago, I was certainly well aware of what I was going to get from the remake version, and it did not exceed my expectation much despite a few interesting variations to mention.

While the background is changed from Norway to US, the story of the remake version is pretty much same as that of the original version. When Nelson Coxman (Liam Neeson), a plain ordinary middle-aged man who has run a successful snow ploughing business in a small rural mountain town of Colorado, is about to receive the Citizen of the Year award on one snowy day, everything seems all right to him and his wife Grace (Laura Dern), and we soon see him giving a humble speech at the following ceremony, but then a terrible thing happens to him and his wife on the very next day. Their son, who works in a local airport, died due to drug overdose, and they are quite shocked and devastated while also wondering whether they really knew their dear son.

As subsequently getting estranged from his wife, Coxman becomes more morose and depressed, so he is almost driven to suicide at one point, but then he encounters his son’s close colleague/friend, who confides to Coxman that he got himself and his innocent friend into a small but serious trouble with a local drug organization. After coming to learn what really happened to his son, Coxman becomes quite determined to revenge his son’s death, and he soon goes to Denver for finding an organization member who killed his son.

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While Coxman eventually finds and then kills that guy in question (after all, he is played by Liam Neeson, isn’t he?), that is just the beginning of his vengeful quest. He is willing to kill every organization member involved with his son’s death in one way or another, and it goes without saying that his ultimate target is the leader of the organization, who is nicknamed “Viking” (Tom Bateman) and certainly quite concerned about the sudden inexplicable disappearance of several key members of his organization.

After wondering what is really happening for a while, Viking comes to suspect the other big local drug organization led by an old native American guy named White Bull (Tom Jackson). He decides to give a hard warning to White Bull and White Bull’s organization, and White Bull and his goons naturally become quite angry and furious when one of their organization members gets killed just because of that.

As the circumstance surrounding Coxman and other main characters become more chaotic and complicated, we get a series of morbidly humorous scenes including the one where Coxman gets some advice from his ex-criminal brother Brock (William Forsythe), but the movie adamantly sticks to its solemn deadpan attitude. Whenever a character dies, that is always followed by a brief obituary on the black screen, and we accordingly become more amused as this is repeated throughout the film like the refrain of a twisted funeral march.

The adapted screenplay by Frank Baldwin, which is based on Kim Fupz Aakeson’s original screenplay, did a fairly good job of transferring the story and characters of the original version to its American background, and director Hand Petter Moland, who directed the original version, establishes well the stark wintry atmosphere on the screen with his cinematographer Philip Øgaard, who was also the cinematographer of the original version. While mostly sounding as serious as required, George Fenton’s score often becomes ironically cheerful, and the movie also utilizes several pop songs and classic pieces of music well enough to earn some chuckles from us.

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And I enjoyed the notable variations in Baldwin’s adapted screenplay. Via White Bull and his goons, the movie throws some indirect social/historical comments, and that is especially exemplified well by a brief but acerbic moment when White Bull glances at a souvenir gift shop item with disdain and disgust. In case of two local police officers in the film, they are presented as more developed characters compared to their counterparts in the original version, and Emmy Rossum and John Doman are engaging to watch in their contrasting roles.

However, the movie still feels redundant to me. I frequently noticed how much it is similar to the original version shot by shot, and I also observed that a few glaring flaws in the original version remain same as before. While it still has some narrative pacing problem during its middle act, its few female characters in the film besides Rossum’s character are more or less than the mere parts of the background, and it is particularly disappointing to see Laura Dern totally wasted in her thankless role.

Anyway, “Cold Pursuit” works to some degree thanks to Moland’s competent direction. While Neeson, who recently caused a big public relations disaster thanks to a very inappropriate comment, is reliable as much as he was in those recent grim, violent action thriller films including, yes, “Taken” (2008), Tom Batesman is darkly amusing during his several juicy scenes, and William Forsythe, Tom Jackson, and Domenick Lombardozzi are also fine in their respective supporting roles. In short, I did not feel that bad as I walked out of the screening room at last night, but I must remind you that you do not have to watch the movie if you already watched the original version.

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