Devin Carter, A&E Writer
I tend to avoid movies that are released in the first few months of the year, because they usually do not turn out to be very good. They are fine for turning one’s brain off and passing the time, I guess, but I usually find early-year releases to be boring and cheaply-made. After all, everybody knows that the real movie year does not kick off until April. These were the things I was thinking when I went to the movies recently. And I only got more pessimistic about my prospects when the person I was with decided to see Cold Pursuit, Liam Neeson’s 47th action movie. Bad movies are one thing, but bad action movies are another. They are usually boring, incredibly predicable, and always feel like they’re about 30 minutes too long. I expected no different this time.
But I was happily surprised. Not only was Cold Pursuit a fun time, but it was unlike any movie I’ve seen. The basic premise seems cookie-cutter enough: Neeson goes on a revenge tour after a loved one is killed. And the film throws the book of clichés in your face throughout, with some being appropriately used and others being entirely unnecessary. And yet, inexplicably, the unnecessary bits are what add the most to the movie’s charm, because it makes it stand out as a wonderful jumble of clichés and wasted screen time and poor decisions on the part of our characters.
If it sounds as if I haven’t given the movie any specific praise yet, then you would be right. Nothing in it is done particularly well. And yet it works, because the numerous flaws that are littered without are so zany, and so different, that you simply can’t help but like it. The antagonist is wonderfully over-the-top as a germophobic, health-crazed drug lord, and Neeson’s character, while not quite as interesting, still does things that help lead to scenarios you can’t help but be amused by.
The best part of the movie was also the worst. There are three major storylines in the film: Neeson’s revenge story, a story following two police officers, and a story involving a Native American gang. The latter of these two plots serve no real purpose to the overall story, and yet the characters were so over-the-top and delightful that the move was made better by their addition. The police officers, who get roped into Neeson’s story, made the film seem eerily similar to Fargo, which is one of the greatest movies ever made as far as I’m concerned. This movie is not Fargo. It’s poorly structured and littered with inconsistencies, clichés, and other problems. But it seems to capture some of the delight that is contained within Fargo and other movies like it. But whereas Fargo is an expertly-constructed comedic masterpiece, Cold Pursuit is a horrible mess that somehow manages to entertain.
I cannot say that Cold Pursuit is a good movie. In fact, it has far more bad elements that good. But this is a movie that is greater than the sum of its parts, and it pulls off the feat of being a bad movie that works. And, in my opinion, it works for the right reasons. It’s not a garbage flick that just happens to be entertaining- it is deliberately crafted to provide viewers with a memorable experience, and, for that, the filmmakers should get some credit. I do not know how fondly remembered this movie will be, or if it will be remembered at all, based on its box office numbers, but I do think it is a fun time that is worth a watch. You may be surprised, as I was, at just how much fun Liam Neeson’s 58th action move can be.