(Release Info London schedule; February 16th, 2019, Aubin Cinema, London E2, 64–66 Redchurch Street, Shoreditch, London, England, E2 7DP, 12:00 PM)
Welcome to Kehoe, it’s -10 degrees and counting at this glitzy ski resort in 'The Rocky Mountains'. The local police aren’t used to much action until Kyle (Micheál Richardson) the son of unassuming town snowplough driver, Nels Coxman (Liam Neeson), is murdered at the order of Viking (Tom Bateman), a flamboyant drug lord. Nels is a family man whose quiet life with his wife Grace (Laura Dern) is upended following the mysterious death of their son. Nels search for justice turns into a vengeful hunt for Viking, he believes is connected to the death. As one by one of Viking’s associates disappear, Nels goes from upstanding citizen to ice-cold vigilante, letting nothing, and no one, get in his way. Fueled by rage and armed with heavy machinery, Nels sets out to dismantle the cartel one man at a time, but his understanding of murder comes mainly from what he read in a crime novel. As the bodies pile up, his actions ignite a turf war between Viking and his long-standing rival White Bull (Tom Jackson), a soulful 'Native-American' mafia boss, that will quickly escalate and turn the small town’s bright white slopes blood-red. "Cold Pursuit" is a whirlwind of icy revenge and violence. An action thriller infused with irreverent dark humor.
A whole can of worms. That’s describes what Liam Neeson's character opens in Hans Petter Moland’s blisteringly violent and bitingly hilarious "Cold Pursuit". Nels goes out on a path of vengeance, but doesn’t realise what he’s getting himself into. He thinks he’s going after one guy who killed his son. In actual fact, it all escalates into a whirlwind of vengeance and violence. And it all has this grain of dark humour running through it, if you can imagine that. This twisted revenge story swirls around Nels Coxman, a snowplough driver in the Colorado ski resort of Kehoe. Just named 'Citizen Of The Year' for his services in keeping the roads open to the remote town, Coxman’s life swiftly spirals into amateur retribution and an escalating pile of corpses when his son is mistakenly killed by local gangsters over a stash of missing drugs. All he knows about killing people is what he read in a crime novel, but Coxman sets off with a sawn-off hunting rifle, and unwittingly begins a chain of events that will include a snowbound turf war, kidnapping, two rival crime lords and a host of hoodlums with colourful nicknames like ''Mustang' (Dominick Lombardozzi), and 'Smoke' (Nathaniel Arcand).
Nels is a father out for revenge against the men who've put his offspring in danger, may sound like it shares some 'DNA' with that of "Cold Pursuit". He’s just a regular guy. Happily married to a wonderful lady Grace, one child, a boy of 21. They’re pretty close, Nels and Kyle. There’s a bond between them that’s kind of unspoken. Kyle is a big American football fan, Broncos to be precise. And Nels isn’t quite as big a fan. And Kyle’s job is to handle baggage at Kehoe airport, the ski resort’s little airport. And everything is normal. Nels lives on the side of a mountain outside this little ski resort called Kehoe. And his job during the winter months is to keep a section of the road open, because they get incredible amounts of snow. So he has his own little industry, his own little workshop where he keeps a snow-blower, snowplough, various machines like that, to keep these roads open. That’s his job. And he keeps a strip of civilisation open through the wilderness for people. That’s his life. That’s what he enjoys. And as a consequence of that, he gets voted Kehoe 'Citizen Of The Year. It’s an annual award, and this year he’s the proud recipient. He has taken a very different path to his family. His father Jaded (Jim Shield) was heavily involved in underground crime, in his younger days. And Nels elder brother Brock (William Forsythe), is also in his father’s trade, let’s put it that way.
And then the 'S.H.I.T.' hits the fan, and the relationship breaks down. Kyle meets a horrible death at the hands of these drug dealers, and it completely makes Nels relationship with Grace disintegrate. She can’t handle it at all and goes inward and eventually leaves. So Nels suffers a kind of a double-death, the death of his son, and the death of this very special relationship. And it prompts him to contemplate his own life, and also contemplate a path of vengeance. And that’s what he sets out to do, to avenge, in some way, his son’s death. And get some form of justice. When Nels goes out on his path of vengeance, he doesn’t realise that he’s opening a whole can of worms, especially with the drug industry. He thinks he’s going after one guy that killed his son, and in actual fact this guy works for these other guys, who then work for this other incredibly vicious young criminal called Viking. He runs one drug cartel and White Bull runs another drug cartel. And Nels gets caught in between all this. So this whole vengeance thing escalates into a kind of a whirlwind of vengeance and violence, while still having this grain of dark humour running through it, if you can imagine that! It’s a classic revenge movie, but with a deep thread of dark humour running through it, with some very, very interesting, well-drawn, three dimensional bad guys who give the film it's humour ballast.
In the movie, Nels has long ago chosen a different path from his dodgy father and brother. He’s a good man, who nonetheless gets sucked into this violence. you can’t escape your past. That detail is there to at least give Nels the possibility to access some tools that a complete outsider wouldn’t have access to. And also it offers an insight into his character and into his choices in life. Unlike his father and brother he's chosen an honest life, as snow-plow driver. The real irony is that he’s named 'Citizen Of The Year', and then the first thing he does is go out and kill people. Nels intention is that it’s good to take the piss out of everybody, to use the British expression. Nobody in the film is exempt from being made fun of, including 'The Native American' characters, and including Nels himself. It all serves a purpose. Like when they go to a morgue and they’re raising Nels son’s body up on a gurney, and it’s the worst possible moment, but while it’s not being played for laughs, there's also the idea that, this is taking too long to get the body up so they can see it. Throughout the movie is a sense of nobody is exempt from the perhaps awfulness of things, the folly of human existence.
In a story filled with complexity, the inclusion of 'Native American' characters is essential, even as "Cold Pursuit" puts absolutely everybody in the crosshairs. Not least the two other fathers that Nels journey will slam him into. The first is Viking, the psychotic local drug lord. The second is White Bull, who brings a soulful gravitas to his rival gang leader, who runs his gang of tough 'Native Americans', who are as deadpan as they're deadly, with a dignity that will be tested to it's very limits. These are all bad guys. There are no good guys in this movie. So you've to start there, and then decipher. It's a conflict that will end with gallons of blood spilled across bright whites. In the movie, the female characters are the ones who are smart enough to distance themselves from the actions of the men, or their stupidity. The men in the movie are domineering, self-important and oblivious to the humor. They're deadly serious. Or dead. Audiences will be emotionally invested in the characters, satisfied with it as an action film, and also be surprised by how funny it's. It’s a film where that balance has to be just right.
Viking is a cinematic gangster boss for the ages. He’s a murdering creep, but then he’s tender and jealous. Viking doesn’t really operate on the same wavelength as anyone else. He’s a psychopath. Just when you think he’s going down one road, he flips it and goes down another. So, you might think, oh, he’s about to be violent, and then he might be seductive and charming. Or, oh, he’s about to be funny, and then he cuts off someone’s head. Viking’s job in this is that he runs a club, but really that’s just a front and a bit of a vanity thing for him. He likes the idea of being a club owner, but, really, his main job is a drug dealer. He supplies cocaine for the town of Kehoe, and he’s got a lot of people who work for him and do that. But he inherited that from his father, so, really, he hasn’t built up an empire, he’s one of those spoilt brats who’s inherited something but wears it like a crown. He loves that he’s seen as this powerful guy. But he hasn’t done himself anything to deserve that status. He’s not the greatest family man either.
They’re another dimension to this bizarre character, because you think he’s this psychopath, a drug dealer, a murdering creep, but then suddenly you see him being very tender to his child and jealous of his wife Aya (Julia Jones), so he still has human attributes that we can all connect to. His wife has divorced him and they’re in the process of fighting over the custody of their child. They both obviously want custody, but Viking wants it more as he sees his child a bit like a sports car, you know? He gets interested at why he’s getting upset, or he’s confused about these feelings. And the vanity is there as well, that his wife has left him. She’s so beautiful and glamorous and she leaves him, and that dents his pride above anything else. It’s not necessarily that the love of his life has left him and he’s heartbroken, it’s that this wife doesn’t need him anymore, and she’s got out from his grasp. He likes to hold everyone in the whole world in the palm of his hand and have control over them. He's the catalyst for everything that happens. He constantly keeps the audience guessing.
Vengence knows no boundaries. In "Cold Pursuit, that notion extends from the quiet man, Nels Coxman, who thought he had escaped his family’s blood legacy to the descendants of indigenous people butchered and betrayed. Yet even among this tapestry, the character of White Bull stands apart. White Bull’s protection of his family and his territory is in direct relation to his values and his history. He's a man who's offered a chance when he was younger to stand close to the same playing field as those who long looked down on tribal people. Now, at age 70, White Bull is a criminal force to be reckoned with; though in keeping with the business he runs, he has attained his stature by unethical, and illegal, means. He's a cartel leader going, literally, sometimes, head to head with the evil Viking. He's in fact ‘Indian’, who by and large doesn’t get represented that way in the movie. They aren’t a tribe, they’re a collective group of 'Native American' men who come from all parts.
Unlike in the original Norweigian film, having this crime gang be 'Native Americans' on land their ancestors lived on creates another kind of tension with Viking, who audiences see develop another level of awfulness and villainy as he denigrates White Bull’s people’s history on the land. Viking thinks this piece of Colorado around Denver and Kehoe is all his territory because his father, Bullet (Kris Hawkins), was here before him. It’s another level of his myopia of course, since Viking has no understanding of anything larger than that. Yet Viking’s ex-wife Aya is 'Native American' too, so there’s that complication. It's interesting and fun to show White Bull’s team of gangsters having quirky conversations, and expand their personalities and show they've their own peccadilloes, just as Viking’s men have, if not more so. There's also, of course, more than a grain of truth in terms of the issues facing 'The Native American' population that, while fictionalized and sensationalized for the purpose of a thriller, have echoes in "Cold Pursuit". But of course, another major factor in "Cold Pursuit" is it's irreverence, and the way it props all of it's characters, no matter who they're, up for a bit of puncturing and humor.
And though White Bull is always a man of dignity, there are moments when Viking or other characters show their ignorance by using stereotypes, or even when some of White Bull’s own gang get the upper hand in a situation or two by exploiting the sensitivity around them. Overall, there's a universal sort of eyebrow-raising at the ridiculousness and folly that's a human existence, whether it’s lived as a criminal or as a citizen of the year. This is a film that takes an irreverent jab at everyone. That’s the satirical element of it, part of that's Viking, he's who he's, and he disparages everybody and uses derogratory labelling, which is very telling in regards to figuring him out. He gets his licks in no matter who he’s dealing with, or who his adversary is at the moment. The notion of Viking taking aim at a group that's so other is illuminating. It’s this idea that it’s convenient to have an enemy, somebody Viking can degrade by putting a label on them and perhaps call by a derogatory name. That mechanism is certainly part of the less-favorable aspects of being human. Here, Viking feels entitled and superior to everyone, whether they're black or gay or 'Native American' or whatever, and being able to belittle somebody by putting a derogatory name onto them is part of that mechanism for him.
The idea of turf and territory has special meaning when it comes to Viking and White Bull. Because here's Viking thinking, ‘this is my turf, my father was here before me’ and of course White Bull’s gang has a special sensibility to being screwed over, and to defending what they know is theirs. If you harken back to the old, the idea of the West, White Bull’s white gang is indigenous to Colorado and has been for a long time. So you've this uneasy truce that's existed for a long time between White Bull and Viking due to a misunderstanding involving Nels’s son that winds up making White Bull upset, and it results in total war. Even Viking’s nickname evokes a colonizing force coming into existing lands, and the violence that accompanies that. Whereas White Bull is a man of honor. The connection to White Bull, it’s almost an emotional parallel, or maybe a matter of connected but not quite similar paths is fascinating. What none of that does is take away the enjoyment White Bull and his gang have in their day-to-day life, the warmth they feel or the quirkiness with which they view their jobs. He's not threatened by people being individuals. His guys are not afraid of enjoying their live, even when they're on a boring stakeout, their individuality shows. They’re smoking pot, poking fun at each other by throwing snowballs.
In a pair of memorable scenes that involve hang-gliding, there are subtle meanings, and a memorable send-off for one character in the film. That hang-gliding scene is 'The Native American' gang simply enjoying the greatness of the landscape they're in. White Bull is enjoying the playful grace of the young skiers, and for his men it's simply the joy of seeing one of their own soar like an eagle. There's something elementary about wanting to fly. Seeing it done so successfully by someone they know, who's Ni not a pro, but who just reaches for the experience out of childish desire, brings joy to their hearts. And yet even the one man that momentarily defied gravity eventually comes crashing down. It’s a terrific mix with White Bull and his gang, because for instance, in a scene at the hotel, they raise their eyebrows when a hotel employee uses the word reservation. They’re using this to get what they want. It’s irreverent. And later White Bull is in the hotel gift shop, and he quietly looks at 'Native American' clothing being sold that we see is actually made in China, and White Bull looks at some of the cheesy sculptures in the shop that turn his tribal legacy into something kitschy to be sold cheap to tourists. It's still important at times to see that their personalities and quirks were able to provide a bit of fun, just as with Viking’s gang. Pursuing it catches up with you eventually, no matter how nice you're.
Nels wife talks her lost hopes and dreams, her love of pot, and her fears for her husband. Grace is a rebel, but in a very different way than Nels. She’s probably into punk and deeply invested in music, and was a hippy of sorts. And as she's taking off towards what she's expecting to be, to live this sort of wild, free life, she fell in love, and ended up choosing to stay for this man. And then they've a family. So, as has happened for many women, you've this very driven passion, but make a choice. So there’s a longing she may have always had. So it gives a seed to some place for her to go in her pain. There’s a chemistry and intimacy and friendship between two people, but when a tragedy occurs, and two people handle it so completely differently, they can lose each other, not only themselves, in it. Grace needs to process it, and Nels needs to completely shut off. So there’s no conversation, no healing, no dialogue, and the intimacy is lost. And he has a way that he’s going to manage his agony. And not only is it entirely opposed to how you dealing with it, but also you left removed from it because he’s on this mission. He’s lost himself in this drive for revenge.
Meet the female cop rising to the surface in a sea of male stupidity. Everyone feels like a secret weirdo. Kim (Emmy Rossum) is a young woman fight for herself and what she believes in in a male-dominated world. Not just within a criminal world but within her own workplace in the police force, too. She’s an eager young rookie cop, idealistic and highly moral but shaded too. She's very idealistic about right and wrong. And the town she’s in is one where there doesn’t seem to be a lot of crime. And when all these dead bodies start piling up, it’s kind of exciting for her because suddenly she has something to do. She’s living in a slightly misogynistic world where her partner, who’s kind of like your stereotypical white male, is very interested in her dating life. And not that interested in doing the right thing. That’s just a really interesting picture to draw. In the end, it doesn’t really matter if she solves the case or gets the bad guys. Kim is this hard-charging, aggressive young police officer, and she wants to make her mark. She’s dying to pull out her gun and shoot somebody. It’s really that she sticks to her ideals and to her guns, no pun intended, throughout her journey.
Kim is less than ably abetted by Gip (John Doman), her police partner who would just like to live and let live. His idea of community policing is to the let the locals do what they want? He’s a pretty laid-back character. He’s constantly trying to put her back in her box. But it’s always been a very low key, behind the scenes, nobody gets hurt, kind of crime. Basically dealing with the drug trade, and servicing people who come there to ski, to have sex and get high. And his philosophy has always been to let them do what they want to do, and now the bodies are starting to pile up. And, of course, his partner is hot to trot and get out and get the bad guys, and he's trying to keep her in the squad car. One of the few people not scared by Viking his Aya, the woman who married him, and survived. Viking is a raging lunatic. His house is like the lion’s den. But she won’t let him win. So when, at a certain point, she wanted to get out, everything just went to hell. And now she still has to deal with him because they've a kid together, Ryan (Nicholas Holmes). Her whole objective is trying to get full custody of Ryan. And it’s a challenge because with her and Viking it’s almost like a tennis match, the power goes back and forth. But she wins all the time, and that’s her whole point, every time she sees him, she goes in to try and win a battle. She starts a fight, and then she needs to win it. It’s a completely different way of looking at relationships or parenting, or anything.
The modern 'American West' provides a chillingly perfect setting; a snowed-in ski resort town with a dwindling population. Because this location is so remote, the story seems to take place out of time, in a way. Doubling as "Cold Pursuit's" small Colorado ski resort of Kehoe. This Alberta location is a character in it's own and key to it's chilling power. On the surface, Kehoe is a tranquil destination, designed for fun and sporty relaxation. But, under it's smooth, white powdery surface runs a blood-red river of murder and mayhem. Frankly, as a holiday spot it’s about as safe as taking a moonlit skinny-dip off 'Amity Island'. All of these characters are strange in their own way. They’re surprising and bizarre. They’re weird, and everyone feels like a secret weirdo. In this movie there’s a gangster who only wants his kid to be macrobiotic and super-healthy, and a family man who becomes a murderer, and a young cop who’s eager to see a dead body because that means something to do. These are all strange things that we wouldn’t necessarily admit about ourselves. It has something really tangibly bizarre that feels weirdly familiar in it's specificity.
Transfer a Norwegian thriller into America’s crime subculture and make it feel dangerous and funny. Comparisons to classic Coen brothers movies, "Fargo", in particular, "Cold Pursuit" greets Hans Petter Moland’s original Norwegian film, "In Order Of Disappearance". You can also drew parallels to the depth and wit of dialogue of early Quentin Tarantino. But while Moland is obviously delighted to have his work placed in those two ballparks, and the film has his own unique style with a inspiration going back further to a classic Hollywood great. It’s kind of a heavy theme, well suited for a dark comedy. There's a desire to not be restrained by genre, to allow different genres to happily live next to each other, to be genuinely horrifying and tragic, but also worth laughing at, like life is. This isn’t your typical revenge movie. It’s a movie about the futility of vengeance. Which is a little bit of an oxymoron, because you get to have your cake, and eat it too! The result is something genuinely unique, a movie with incredible action, shot through with an undercurrent of knowing humour.
Film history is full of Westerns where 'Native Americans' are merely used for plot purposes, or used as adversaries based on preconceived notions, they’ve been seen either as savages, ruthless warriors, victims, or just something else that serves the white point of view. Those who some view as strangers are, in fact, on their own land. The film has great interest prior to this in American history in general and the plight of American indigenous people, and how they're pushed off of their own land and had to suffer as a nation. It makes it easier to go with what's happening in the sense that these people are getting away with this stuff because it's so remote and so snowy and there's so many long stretches with no people around. The remoteness is really important to this story, both in the feel it gives you and in the sense of, You've got to make your own rules out here. And that’s kind of a classic American theme of the West.
"Cold Pursuit" is a very good, character-driven revenge thriller, with very, very interesting bad guys and a very dark undercurrent, with an element of humour that runs through it that’s really appealing. It’s focussed on revenge as being not a very viable strategy for a fruitful life, for the men and for their families. It’s just not a very good idea, even though it’s fun to see people do it. If you’re doing anything satirical then the dichotomy is a very big portion of the satire. That incongruity of motive and action. They're oblivious to the humour that surrounds them and the result of their actions. The film has a very serious departure point and then it unfolds and expands into these new arenas. The absurdity has to grow. You've to allow people to discover it for themselves and laugh when they want. There’s a moment in the scene in the morgue where a large part of the audience start to suspect there’s something fishy about this film. People tend to realise then that it's permissible to laugh. It’s about what happens when you don’t consider what you’re feeling, and you take, oddly, what you think is the path of least resistance, which is revenge. As a way to deal with your feelings, you’re just going to create hell, and end up far worse off than when you started. And we play it out in a daydream, many of us, or seek it in subtler forms, emotional revenge on people who've hurt us, which is still potentially damaging. Perhaps it’ll make us see the mess we could make, if we actually stayed true to the shadow of what we’re feeling.