Spiked with humor, Liam Neeson thriller makes for a wild ride

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Seriously loopy in a good way, “Cold Pursuit” is a Liam Neeson thriller with a warped sense of humor that overrides its blood lust. 

It takes the structure of a typical Neeson revenge vehicle – Neeson is wronged and seeks to settle the score – and turns it into a meta commentary on gangster films and action thrillers as a whole. You’ll laugh a lot, from early chuckles to later guffaws, but “Cold Pursuit” is never the object of ridicule. It’s laughing right along with you.

Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland has fashioned the film after his own “In Order of Disappearance,” a 2014 thriller that took place in his homeland. In hiring Moland to direct his own remake, Hollywood did him a solid, and the film preserves the director’s quirky sense of humor while updating the story's setting to Colorado.

Neeson plays the subtly named Nels Coxman, a snowplow man in the fictional ski community of Kehoe. When his son is murdered by local drug dealers, Coxman goes into vigilante mode, hunting down the members of the drug organization one-by-one until he reaches the head honcho, Viking, played by a cartoonishly off-his-rocker Tom Bateman.

As Moland settles into his groove, which includes marking every on-screen death with a black screen baring the deceased character’s name, the story moves on from Neeson’s Coxman and focuses on a feud between the drug cartel and a Native American crime gang, and the police officers on both of their trails. It’s a delirious ride, full of fun and darkly comic moments, and its just the spike Neeson needs as his badass persona had seemingly run its course. 

'Cold Pursuit'

GRADE: B

Rated R: for strong violence, drug material, and some language including sexual references

Running time: 119 minutes

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