Updated: Aug 14, 2019
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital copy; 2019; R for strong violence, drug material, and some profanity including sexual references; streaming via Amazon Video/Prime, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), iTunes (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: “Welcome to Kehoe: Behind the Scenes on ‘Cold Pursuit’”
NILS COXMAN is out for revenge – so who better to play him than Liam Neeson?
Based on the 2014 Norwegian film “Kraftidioten,” AKA “In Order of Disappearance,” this English language remake is also directed by Hans Petter Moland and filmed by cinematographer Philip Øgaard. Frank Baldwin wrote the script, embellishing from Kim Fupz Aakeson’s original.
“Cold Pursuit” is similar to Coen Brothers films, mixing violence with dark humor. It’s not as snappy and fast, but the resemblance is there. Aside from hunting, Neeson’s character Nels Coxman is not a killer. “I picked a good road and I stayed on it,” Coxman says. He lives with his wife, Grace (Laura Dern) in a log cabin in the mountains outside of the fictional town of Kehoe, Colorado. He’s a quiet, unassuming man who’s embarrassed to accept the town’s Citizen of the Year award for keeping snow covered roads clear and providing roadside assistance. Then, on the night of the ceremony, his 21-year-old son Kyle (Micheál Richardson, Neeson’s son) is kidnapped and given an overdose, murdered by drug dealers.
It’s a mistake, as Nels and Grace point out when they arrive at the morgue to identify him. But the police and coroner turn a deaf ear; no parent wants to believe their child could be a “druggie” they say. Things only get worse. Nels accidentally learns that Kyle’s co-worker Dante (Wesley MacInnes) started the trouble. Working for local drug kingpin Trevor “Viking” Calcote (Tom Bateman), Dante stole a kilo of cocaine. Viking believes Kyle was in on it, so both young men are marked for death – except Dante manages to escape.
So now Nels has a target and a new reason to live. He works his way up the food chain, tracking down and killing those responsible for his son’s death. His actions set off a bizarre chain of events bringing two powerful cartels to war, Viking’s mob and a First Nation group led by White Bull (Tom Jackson). No one suspects the local ploughman could be responsible for so many deaths.
Convoluted, yes. Weird and entertaining, also yes.
“I did these three ‘Taken’ movies [about] a man with a ‘certain set of skills.’ In this one the guy’s a total amateur … He has a primitive need for revenge and doesn’t really know how to go about it. He starts reading crime novels to see if he can pick up any tips. ” — Liam Neeson, interview
“Cold Pursuit” was mostly filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia. The plan was to shoot in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada, but Parks Canada objected to aboriginal Canadians as villains according to IMDb. Even Jackson couldn’t persuade them to change their minds.
So Moland and Øgaard used the Rocky Mountains instead. With their combined experience shooting in Norway’s extensive mountain range, they capture snow shrouded landscapes in a variety of light and shadow. Mountains look majestic and primal; interiors range from the cool modern tones of Viking’s home to the warm glow of the Coxman’s cabin. It’s no surprise Viking’s young son wishes Nels could be his father. “I thought you were a kidnapper,” he says.
“Not all the time,” Nels replies.
Color is beautiful and natural, with super-fine detail on Lionsgate’s 2160p and 1080p discs (2.39:1 aspect ratio), while the digital code can be redeemed in 4K. Contrast levels are good. Complexions in the multi-national and ethnic cast look authentic, and frequently as cragged and picturesque as the mountains. There’s quite a list of characters, each with a distinctive appearance. Contrast is often stark, light against solid black, but no background item is lost, especially with the 4K’s Dolby Vision.
“Mother Nature never ceases to amaze. There were a few times I thought ‘the audience are not going to be looking at me, they’re going to be looking at these billions of years-old mountains,’” Neeson says in the making-of. “The light keeps changing the color of them all the time. Very dramatic; very, very beautiful, and very cold.”
Both the 4K and Blu-ray offer Dolby Atmos and default Dolby TrueHD 7.1 channel tracks. Height sound for Atmos is good, with howling wind, snow and ice blown from the snow plow, and a firefight finale. Dialogue is clear and understandable, with easily accessed subtitles. Composer George Fenton’s music is good, using ethnic elements, but sometimes overwhelms a scene. It’s a needless boost, not good for apartment dwellers.
“A lot of the humor comes from the gangsters. It comes from dialogue, and it comes from taking some of the importance out of gangsters who feel self-important, and playing their actions and motivations for humor without losing the deadly stakes that are running from start to finish.” — Frank Baldwin, “Welcome to Kehoe”
Lionsgate provides three good extras in addition to the making-of documentary, “Welcome to Kehoe.” There are five deleted scenes and two short, separate interviews with Neeson and Moland. Both discs carry the bonus features, but the Blu-ray has the previews.
There are reasons to stick with disc purchases. Streaming is still in its infancy. Issues now include buffering and outages, so those who want to rely on seeing new films at home should opt for the disc.
“Cold Pursuit” is basically a classic western morality tale with a good guy taking on a mass of baddies. It’s equal parts risk and humor.
“I always wanted to be the Lone Ranger. OK – maybe the other guy,” says Jackson. “I always wanted to play cowboys and Indians.”
— Kay Reynolds