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Wed08052020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Cold Pursuit stars Liam Neeson in yet another revenge film, this time set in the snowy Rocky Mountains.

There’s some impressive scenery … and that’s about the best thing I can say about this one.

It’s not good when the best parts of a murder-mystery are shots of a snow plow cutting through large quantities of white stuff. That, oddly enough, is a beautiful thing to watch, and had me wishing this were a documentary about a guy trying to keep a mountain pass clear in the winter rather than another Fargo rip-off.

Neeson plays Nels Coxman, and, yes, the film contains plenty of jokes about that last name. Nels has just won a Citizen of the Year award for keeping the roads clear—just in time for his son, Kyle (Micheál Richardson), to be killed by a forced heroin overdose. Turns out Kyle interfered in some drug-dealings with a major dealer nicknamed Viking (Tom Bateman) and got put in a fatal predicament meant to look like an addict’s accident.

Nels knows better and seeks out answers. When he starts getting them, he kills off those responsible, one by one, until the path leads to Viking. When he gets there, the plan involves Viking’s young son. (“You took my son’s life. … You have a son. … HE’S GOING TO BE TAKEN!”)

This is a remake of the 2014 Norwegian film In Order of Disappearance, which had Stellan Skarsgard in the Neeson role, and also had the same director, Hans Petter Moland. Moland straight up repeats much of what happened in his original film, shooting many of the scenarios identically. There’s no reason for this remake to exist, other than cashing in on Neeson’s name.

By the way, Skarsgard’s last name in the original was Dickman. Get it? Dickman becomes a Coxman? Give me a break.

In the original, the drug lord’s misinterpretation of what’s going on leads to a turf war between Norwegians and Serbians. This time out, the misbegotten turf war is between some typical American assholes and guys from a nearby Native American reservation. Oh, hey, I just figured out that the character named Viking is an ode to the original Norwegian film. There you have it—another lame change posing as clever.

Laura Dern shows up as Nels’ wife and Kyle’s mom, but her paycheck apparently wasn’t all that sizable, so she bolts from the film fairly early. Emmy Rossum is given the role of the only police officer on the force trying to make a go at solving what’s going on. That, mixed with the frozen tundra and the attempts at dark humor, gives the film that feeling of a Fargo rip-off.

As for Neeson, this is a role he’s played many times before. He’s picking his roles slightly better than, say, Bruce Willis, but he’s definitely allowed himself to get typecast at this point. His small role in last year’s The Ballad of Buster Scruggs was his best work since his other frozen tundra actioner, The Grey. Actually, if you have a hankering for Neeson running around in the snow, and have never seen The Grey, get on it. That one is a classic.

If there’s a stand-out performance in Cold Pursuit, it’s probably Bateman as Viking. He’s the only one who seems to understand that it’s supposed to be a little funny and outlandish. His compulsive tweaking of his son’s diet, and his strange take on bullying, make him a nightmare dad—but a pretty funny bad guy. He deserved a better movie.

If you must see a movie about a snow-plow driver killing a bunch of people, Charles Bronson-style, watch the original. (Hey, Bruno Ganz is in it!) As far as a snow-plow-driver-killer movies go, Cold Pursuit is boring ride.

Cold Pursuit is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Some 15 years after her last movie (the terrible The Banger Sisters), Goldie Hawn has been coaxed back onto the big screen, opposite Amy Schumer in Snatched. It’s great to have her back—and it would’ve been super-great had the movie been worth her time.

Hawn and Schumer play Linda and Emily, mother and daughter, in what amounts to a series of decent dirty jokes, dumb dirty jokes and a lot of flat jokes, powered by a plot with no real sense of purpose. Hawn and Schumer work hard to make it all fun, but they are ultimately taken down by the mediocrity of the film around them.

When Emily is dumped by her rocker boyfriend (the always-funny Randall Park), she has no traveling partner for an upcoming, non-refundable trip to Ecuador. In steps Linda, a crazy-cat-lady mom who rarely leaves the house. Just like that, the two wind up sleeping in a king bed in a lavish resort, with Emily constantly taking selfies to impress her Facebook friends; meanwhile, Linda is covered up with scarves by the pool.

After Emily meets a hot British guy (Tom Bateman), she ultimately winds up on a sightseeing trip—with Mom along for the ride. Mom and daughter wind up kidnapped and held for ransom, with nobody but their nerd son/brother (Ike Barinholtz) to save their asses.

Director Jonathan Levine (50/50) isn’t afraid to take things to dark places—Emily’s attempts to free her and mom has a body count—and the film earns its R rating with raunchy humor, Schumer’s specialty. Some of the gags are good, including a bit involving a scorpion, an ill-fated attempt to swing on a vine, and a tongue-less former special ops soldier (Joan Cusack) flipping through the air like Spider-Man.

Hawn and Schumer make a convincing mommy-daughter combo, and Snatched has value for putting the two in a movie together. They rise above the material often enough to make the film somewhat forgivable, especially if you are a fan of both (and, really, why wouldn’t you be?). The problem is that the scenario—two women being kidnapped—is about as unfunny as you can get, and writer Katie Dippold (who co-wrote the awful Ghostbusters reboot) doesn’t come up with a series of events that feels original. As the Ghostbusters movie did, Snatched drops some comedy mega-stars into a played-out plot, and expects the whole thing to stay afloat, given the screen talent employed. Hawn and Schumer wind up sort of neutralizing the movie, making it a little less dark than a straight kidnapping caper. The resulting vibe is one of flatness.

Given the relative failure of this endeavor, I hope Goldie Hawn doesn’t get discouraged by it. Let’s hope this movie is the first of many more for one of the greats. Truth is, she still has it, and she manages to make a lot of potentially stale moments earn at least a chortle. It’s a weird thing to ponder that she’s been away for a decade and a half, because her timing is spot-on.

As for Schumer, she has a way with gross-out humor that allows you to keep rooting for her—no matter how gross she gets. She’s just as funny as Hawn; it was an inspiring idea to put the two together in a movie.

Leaving Snatched, my general feeling was, “Yeah, I just saw that,” and not much else. I’m happy as heck to see Goldie again, and I enjoy Schumer’s shtick to an extent, but Snatched feels more like something for Adam Sandler and his Netflix cronies than a vehicle for Goldie Hawn.

Snatched is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews