Cold Pursuit Parent Guide
As if winter weren't awful enough...
Parent Movie Review
Cold Pursuit centers around Nelson Coxman (Liam Neeson), a hardworking snowplow driver for the isolated mountain town of Kehoe, Colorado. Coxman leads a happy life with his wife Grace (Laura Dern) and son Kyle (Micheal Richardson) and is even awarded the “Kehoe Citizen of the Year” award for his efforts in keeping the roads into town accessible through the winter. However, when Kyle turns up dead of a heroin overdose, Coxman is certain that his son would never have used opioids and follows a trail of evidence into the world of drug smuggling and gang violence.
This is a pretty standard opening to a traditional revenge thriller. And that’s how the first twenty minutes of the movie play out, until Cold Pursuit decides it wants to be a dark comedy instead. (I’m almost certain no one told Laura Dern about the shift in tone: she gives a sincere performance as a grieving mother.) This tonal shift is annoying, but the shifts in pacing are worse. After a lightning-fast first hour, the movie starts limping like its aging star. Deciding that its whirlwind beginning was too much, the film gives us about 20 minutes without Liam Neeson’s character, filling that with uninterrupted conversation between the antagonist and various secondary characters.
Tonal and pacing issues aside, the movie has content issues that will not sit well with parents – which is not a surprise given its richly deserved Restricted rating. Violence is a central theme, with a great deal of gunshots and blood plus gruesome beatings thrown in for good measure. This film contains the most visceral beatings I’ve seen outside either a Quentin Tarantino movie or a hockey fight, depending on the movie and the team. Cold Pursuit also has a very disturbing racist vibe. While the film manages to cast a handful of token minority characters, not one of them has a positive portrayal: the Asian character is a gold-digging thief, the African-American character is an incompetent and disloyal hitman, the Indian character is a useless coward, and every First Nations character is a drug dealing criminal. Add to this the villain using the phrase “Tipi a**wipes” to describe Native American individuals, and you’ve got a racist mess.
Viewers upset by Cold Pursuit’s negative content will be even more annoyed by its sloppy production values. Notably, several shots are completely out of focus. Not in the interesting artistic way where something slowly emerges into focus - they are just poorly filmed. Prep work for locations is equally inept: there are a few shots set in Denver where they forgot to add snow to the lawn outside the windows, which is indicative either of low budgets or sloppiness. The computer-generated assets are similarly mediocre: the film was shot in the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia and to give a sense of place, the director has repeatedly dropped in a single computer generated shot of Denver. Given its Canadian filming locations, the film crew couldn’t poke the camera outside the hotel window and get a Denver cityscape, but most other productions would just buy or shoot their own stock footage on location. Using a CG city looks bizarre, especially because the rendering doesn’t match the lighting or resolution of the landscape it’s plopped into.
Having not seen the Norwegian film, In Order of Disappearance, upon which Cold Pursuit is based, I can’t tell you whether or not this is a good adaptation. I can, however, tell you it’s one of the least interesting action movies or comedies I’ve seen in the last year - and I like dark comedies. This revenge tale is not a dish best served cold; it is unappetizing, poorly timed, and well worth avoiding.Directed by Hans Petter Moland. Starring Liam Neeson, Emmy Rossum, and Laura Dern. Running time: 119 minutes. Theatrical release February 8, 2019. Updated February 24, 2019
Rating & Content Info
Why is Cold Pursuit rated R? Cold Pursuit is rated R by the MPAA for strong violence, drug material, and some language including sexual references
Violence: An individual is abducted and forcibly injected with heroin. His corpse is later shown. A man gets drunk and holds a gun in his mouth as an attempt at suicide but is interrupted. A man is beaten nearly to death, and then choked. A man is beaten and struck with a gun across the face, causing him to spit out his teeth and a fair amount of blood. He is then shot in the chest. Another individual is severely beaten and shot in the head. An individual is abducted, beaten, shot, and hung on a road sign. A man is shot in the head. His head is then removed and shown being given as a gift. There is a graphic threat of torture. A dozen individuals are killed in a shootout. A man strikes the front end of a snowplow and is mulched by the attached snowblower. His remains are shown being sprayed over the snow.
Sexual Content: There are frequent anatomical jokes and crude sexual innuendo. Characters boast of promiscuity, in one case indicating that a character would have had intercourse with a rattlesnake “if someone held its head”. A man is shown taking a bath, but no nudity is shown. A man is shown deliberately trying to lure a hotel maid into seeing him naked and having intercourse with him.
Profanity: There are perhaps a dozen uses of profanity, predominantly in the “Moderate” category, along with two or three instances of extreme profanity. First Nations people are frequently referred to as “Indians”, typically with a preceding profanity. In one instance, they are referred to as “tipi a**wipes”.
Alcohol / Drug Use: An individual is shown on two instances smoking (presumably) marijuana, which is legal in the state of Colorado. An unnamed individual is shown doing the same later on a public street. An individual deliberately gets very drunk before a suicide attempt.
Page last updated February 24, 2019
Cold Pursuit Parents' Guide
Is revenge really a dish best served cold? What are the social and personal costs of revenge? What other options are available besides perpetuating a cycle of violence?
The racism in the film was bizarrely echoed in an interview Liam Neeson gave shortly before the movie’s premiere. Neeson tells a story about how a friend’s rape by a black man so enraged him that he wandered around with a cosh looking for a “black b*d” to kill to avenge his friend’s assault. Why do you think Neeson shared this story? Do you think his interview demonstrates progress in acknowledging past racial tensions or do you think it inflames existing racial prejudices?
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Want to watch more Liam Neeson movies? He plays a father trying to save his daughter from ruthless kidnappers in Taken. In the The Commuter, Neeson is an ordinary man whose quotidian commute suddenly becomes a deadly game. He goes hard in the action genre in The A-Team, where he leads a group of special forces who are determined to do whatever it takes to clear their names after they have been wrongly convicted for a crime. In Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House, Neeson portrays Mark Felt, Associate Director of the FBI who leaks information to reporters covering the Watergate scandal.