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Movie Review

Nels Coxman is a hardworking, snowplow-driving family guy. He’s a man of few words. When the Rocky Mountain city of Keyho gives Nels its Citizen of the Year award for faithfully and diligently keeping its ski-resort roads clear, he sums up his acceptance simply:

“I was lucky,” Nels says about his life, with a guiless expression. “I picked a good road, and I stayed on it.”

Soon after, though, Nels’ life hits a pretty major snow bank on that road: His son, Kyle, is found dead. “Heroin overdose,” the local coroner proclaims. But that can’t possibly be true, as far as stoic Nels is concerned. His son is not a drug addict. They hunt together. They live together. Their lives are simple … and heroin-free.

The local police don’t do much digging. After all, this sort of thing happens fairly regularly in snow-clogged resort towns.

But it doesn’t take long for unflappable Nels to find out that he was right. Kyle was the unwitting victim of a drug deal at the airport that went very wrong. Said deal involved the Denver mob (who knew there was a Denver mob?), and Kyle didn't know anything about it. Kyle who was faithfully working his snowy job on the Keyho tarmac, was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time.

That doesn’t sit well with one Nels Coxman. He may not be a man that stands out in a crowd, he may not be one with words, but he knows what’s right and what’s wrong.

He knows how to handle a hunting rifle. He understands justice. And with his son dead, he hasn’t got a whole lot to lose.

You see, Nels is snowplow-driving guy … with a certain set of skills.

Positive Elements

Some might argue that Nels is just seeking justice for his son's death. But in truth, what he really wants is vengeance. That's not a good thing, obviously, even if the loss he's suffered invites us to sympathize with that natural response. But as the film unspools, it suggests that Nels' (and other characters') pursuit of "justice" through revenge is actually a deadly choice that ultimately doesn't benefit anyone.

On the other hand, the one character who is interested in pursuing law, order and justice is straight-arrow Keyho police officer Kim Dash. Unfortunately, her police chief boss undermines her attempts to do the right thing. When Dash moves to arrest teens smoking marijuana on a street corner, for instance, the Chief tells her to stand down: “Folks come here to ski, have sex and get high,” he tells her. In spite of her boss's legally lax attitudes, however, Dash still strives to bring the drug dealers down with whatever legal means she can find.

Spiritual Content

Many people die over the course of this movie. And in each case, the deceased person's name appears on-screen next to a religious or semi-religious symbol that reflects the person's belief system. For instance, some names appear with a cross, others a Native American totem, while another is adorned with a peace sign.

After one Native American is killed, several gang members (of similar ethnicity) gather at the spot where the body was found to perform a spiritual ceremony. We also see several funerals taking place in a graveyard adorned with crosses on headstones. A man puts bottles of alcohol and other significant items on an altar.

Sexual Content

Two gang members are secretly gay. They hold hands and kiss. We also hear other gang members talking about sexual conquests and ploys used to seduce young women who work in restaurants and hotels.

We see one guy putting one of those sexual schemes into practice: while naked, he's shown on a hotel bed "wearing" only a $20 bill over his genitals (which are kept just outside the camera’s eye). After he's subsequently killed, we see that the bloody bill is perforated by a bullet hole. Elsewhere, a man sits naked in a bathtub. (We see his bare shoulders and upper torso.) He steps out and wraps himself in a towel. (Again, key areas are kept just out of sight.)

Violent Content

Bloody violence is played as a dark punchline throughout this film. We see people viciously tortured, then shot in the face or forehead at point-blank range. People are shot in the upper body and chest, their crimson viscera blowing out on a variety of white surfaces.

A guy’s bloody, severed head is placed on someone’s desk as a "gift." A dead body is hung up on a snowy road sign. And Nels pummels numerous faces into bloody pulp—knocking out teeth, lacerating foreheads and breaking noses with his fists and with the butt of a sawed-off hunting rifle.

Of course, that also means that there are lots of bodies to be disposed of, too. Accordingly, we seem them wrapped in plastic, blood-smeared sheets and rolls of chicken wire.

A gang leader named Viking talks of butchering and mutilating an enemy. He also takes a swing at his angry wife’s face. She ducks away and grabs him forcefully by the crotch, reducing him with incapacitating pain.

Nels uses his huge snowplow to sweep a vehicle off the road. And a parachuting man is sucked up into a large snowblower and reduced to a rain of red goop and fabric.

At one point, Nels is so distraught over his son’s death that he swigs half a bottle of alcohol and sticks the barrel of his hunting rifle in his own mouth. (Someone stops him, though, before he pulls the trigger.)

Crude or Profane Language

Two f-words and half a dozen s-words are joined by single uses each of “d--n,” “a--,” “h---” and “b--tard.” God’s and Jesus’ names are misused about a dozen times total (six times with “god” being combined with “d--n”). Someone uses a crude hand gesture.

Drug and Alcohol Content

The central driving force in this story is the drug trade in a small resort town. We see numerous bags of cocaine being shuffled around and hidden. We also hear stories about people using the drug.

A guy gets injected with a lethal overdose of heroin. Several different people (including Nels’ wife) smoke marijuana. Patrons at a local hotel sip mixed drinks. Nels swigs from a bottle of booze, too.

Other Negative Elements

Crude racial slurs get tossed around about regularly, demeaning both whites and Native Americans. The camera watches closely as a dog defecates.

Conclusion

Cold Pursuit isn’t what most people will probably go in thinking it is.

The film is an adaptation of director Hans Petter Moland’s 2014 black comedy In Order of Disapperance. Aiming for a gritty, Coen Brothers-like "charm," this bloody thriller grins bleakly and satirically at the revenge films Liam Neeson has been starring in for the last decade or so.

But it misses its mark by a good snowplow’s length. In fact, Cold Pursuit unspools at least a third of the way through before audiences begin to realize that it’s intended as a funny bloody revenge flick. Indeed, all of the film’s sordid cinematic rabbit trails—filled with racial slurs, winks at cultural appropriation, crude chortles about sexual abuse, brutal executions and scenery-painting eruptions of blood—are all supposed to be chuckle-worthy movie gems.

And here I thought the film was just poorly made and foul.

Silly me.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Liam Neeson as Nels Coxman; Laura Dern as Grace Coxman; Micheál Richardson as Kyle Coxman; William Forsythe as Brock; Tom Bateman as Trevor 'Viking' Calcote; Emmy Rossum as Kim Dash; Julia Jones as Aya; Tom Jackson as White Bull

Director

Hans Petter Moland ( )

Distributor

Lionsgate

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

February 8, 2019

On Video

May 14, 2019

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Bob Hoose

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults
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