COLD PURSUIT – movie review

Summit Entertainment
Reviewed for & by: Harvey Karten
Director: Hans Petter Moland
Screenwriter: Frank Baldwin, Kim Fupz Aakeson, loosely based on Moland’s 2014 movie “In Order of Disappearance”
Cast: Liam Neeson, Laura Dern, David O’Hara, Tom Bateman, Tom Jackson, Emma Rossum, Domenick Lombardozzi
Screened at: Dolby 88, NYC, 1/29/19
Cold Pursuit - Poster GalleryOpens: February 8, 2019



If you’ve given up sugar because you think it’s white poison, what can you use as a calorie-free substitute? Try a movie with a theme of revenge. It’s sweet, so they say, and the public must love the theme or why else would there be umpteen pictures about it? Yet happily, “Cold Pursuit” is not just one of those umpteen pictures about revenge. This is no horror tale written and acted for the benefit of teens and sadistic high-school kids who want nothing more than for heads to roll. Of course heads do roll in “Cold Pursuit,” or how could you otherwise call it a revenge picture? But using Frank Baldwin and Kim Fupz Aakeson’s screenplay, director Han Petter Moland is able to weave in quite a bit of wry humor, self-deprecating manifestoes, and down-home looks at what two of the good guys (they’re police) talk about when they don’t talk about crime.

Hans Petter Moland is known for “In Order of Disappearance,” taking place in the snowy peaks of the director’s Norway, involving igniting a war between a vegan gangster and a Serbian mafia boss. The mere mention of “vegan gangster” in his 2014 black comedy clues you in on a director who would not be content with running a cast through the motions of a genre gangster movie, and in fact “Cold Pursuit” highlights a regional drug lord who is a loving father to a 10-year-old boy who micromanages the kid’s diet. (Never mind that somehow the boy downs a bowl of Fruit Loops.) “Cold Pursuit,” following the themes of Moland’s previous movie, pits a regional drug lord in Denver and surroundings who becomes involved in a turf war with an indigenous gang and who, by killing the innocent son of a man whose job is to keep the roads clear in a Kehoe Colorado ski town, in tracked down by the lad’s father out for blood as well.

Dramatic action begins when the son of snowplow driver Nels Coxman (Liam Neesen) and his wife Grace (Laura Dern) is kidnapped on the orders of Viking (Tom Bateman), injected with heroin, and dumped in the snow to lead authorities to believe he overdosed. Knowing that his boy was never a druggie, Nelson “Nels” Coxman (Liam Neesen) is determined to find the killer or killers, setting out in Kehoe, Colorado, to bring justice in a place where you could not expect much from the two town cops Gip (John Doman) and his partner (Emma Rossum). Gip in an early scene dissuades his partner, aggressive about upholding the strict word of law, to ignore a group of kids smoking weed. “I know it’s legal to buy and smoke, but only in your own house,” she demurs.

As Nels proceeds to pick up the gang members one by one, including the owner of a bridal gown establishment who, upon seeing Nels suspects the man’s motives and reaches for his gun, the various groups chit chat, building a character study to what could have been a juvenile horror tale. Officer Gip encourages his partner to get back together with her boyfriend leading her flirtatiously to converse with the ex on the phone promising a good time if he would give me information on the perps. Viking for his part must negotiate custody for their ten-year-old son Ryan with his estranged wife, who appears to be the only person not worried about the consequences of dealing with a serial killer.

The whole ensemble rises to the occasion with particular credit to White Bull (Tom Jackson), who is as determined to get rid of the white gang in a turf war as is Nels.

This is a first-rate thriller designed to bring in the crowd that would never bother with simple revenge movies and features terrific scenery captured by Philip Øgard in the town of Kananaskis Alberta, and Fernie, Victoria and Vancouver in British Columbia standing in for the Colorado ski resort. The outstanding performance from Liam Neeson should surprise no-one, yet who would have suspected that a 66-year-old actor could play through a great role as the angel of vengeance, taking down some gangsters with his bare fists?

118 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical –B
Overall – A-

THE STRAY – movie review


Purdie Distribution
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten, CompuServe Film d-based on Rotten Tomatoes
Grade: B
Director:  Mitch Davis
Written by: Mitch Davis, Parker Davis
Cast:  Michael Cassidy, Sarah Lancaster, Connor Corum, Scott Christopher, Eliza de Azevedo Brown, Shiloh
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 9/28/17
Opens: October 6, 2017
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America is dog country.  Forty-four percent of our households have dogs: seventy-eight million canines find themselves as U.S. residents, making the four-legged pooches our best friends.  In fact if a suburban, or rural home, especially those with kids, were dog-free, that should make us suspicious.  It’s surprising, then, that the Davis family, settling into the near wilderness of Colorado, would be hesitant about acquiring one, considering the three kids would probably love nothing better.

Mitch Davis is best known by “The Other Side of Heaven,” about an Idaho Falls resident in the 1950’s who goes to the Tongan Islands for missionary work.  This time, his movie deals with the wariness of dog ownership faced by a character with his name, Mitch Davis (Michael Cassidy) and his wife Michelle (Sarah Lancaster).  They agree to give a dog a roof over its head but only if the dog, a stray, would come to them.  They have domestic problems, the kind that most of us wish they had.  Mitch is a movie studio executive in L.A. who is obliged to read so many screenplays that he hasn’t time to teach his oldest boy, nine-year-old Christian (Connor Corum), how to pitch a baseball.  He puts more hours into the job than a lawyer with a white-shoe law firm, but his wife Michelle, instead of being happy that her man can support five people, urges him to quit and to move the family out of the city and into rural Colorado where instead of dealing with other people’s screenplays, he can write his own.

Since young Christian has no friends and is annoyed to get so little attention from his dad, Mitch agrees to go camping with his son and two other nine-year-olds from his neighbor’s household. With the formerly stray dog Pluto’s (Shiloh) agreeing to the trip as well, they are off for a planned three-night venture, while Mitch motivates the trio to stuff their backpacks with the promise “You’ll be able to poop outside.”

Tragedy strikes when lightning hits the tent, with dire results for both Pluto and dad in a film whose ideal audience  is about the age of the three boys, would be too uncool for the junior-high crowd, but would be of considerable interest to adults who are tired of the soulless blockbusters and the movie vulgarities that are de rigueur nowadays.  Yet one might wonder about a story line that finds a dog and a dad struck by lightning, the young father depending on the three lads he’s hosting to bring back feelings in his legs and his arms.

Michael Cassidy and Sarah Lancaster perform as expected, on the surface the ideal 1950’s Leave It to Beaver types with the exception that Michelle is putting pressure on her husband which in her way is as demanding as the poor guy’s boss.  There is no vulgar language, the most serious exception being one’s kid’s expression “my butt,” and at ninety-two minutes “The Stray” does not overstay its welcome.  I wish, though, that the dog played by Shiloh would have a larger role, since his script calls for nothing more demanding than barking and running for the ball.  T.C. Christensen’s lensing makes Colorado look like Paradise.