Directed by Hans Petter Moland
Written by Frank Baldwin
Based on “In Order of Disappearance” by Kim Fupz Aakeson
Starring Liam Neeson, Tom Bateman, Tom Jackson, Emmy Rossum, Domenick Lombardozzi, Laura Dern, William Forsythe
Revenge is a very dirty business.
But, when done appropriately and privately, and with dry humor intact, well, the grit and gristle of revenge isn’t as distasteful.
Take Nels Coxman (Liam Neeson). He’s a genuinely nice guy. A family man who, as attested to by his Citizen of the Year award is shook to his very core when his son, a baggage handler at the local airport turns up dead from a heroin overdose.
Based on the 2014 foreign language picture from director Hans Petter Moland, “In Order of Disappearance,” this film derives its guts from the dark and dry humor that permeated “Fargo” in 1996. As in that film, a quiet town disrupted by a violent act, which turns into a series of violent pratfalls as the local gangster, Trevor “Viking” Calcote (Tom Bateman) realizes something is amiss when members of his crew start disappearing.
When we’re laughing at the lunacy that is Bateman’s snarmy character, decked out in his ultramodern mountain villa and his Tesla Model X, we take delight in the unassuming ways in which Nels dispatches his victims. All of it is senseless and Baldwin’s screenplay doesn’t make any bones about that; we’re just along for the ride.
Adding to the Coen-esque nature of the film is the gung-ho deputy, Kim Dash (Emmy Rossum). The character is aware that something sinister is happening around her, but her partner Gip (John Doman) encourages her to back down, to enjoy the serenity of the Rocky Mountain community.
Coxman’s antics stir up two hornets’ nests. The first is a bloody gang war between Viking and an American Indian drug cartel. Moland and Baldwin extrude some fine detail about a part of history that not many are aware of. The second nest is on the home front. Grace (Laura Dern) is genuinely struggling over the death of their son, leaving her to grieve alone.
The art direction becomes as much a character as the talent that inhabits the screen. From the warmth of the Coxman home, a log home meant to symbolize a bit of normalcy, to ground Nels as compared to the austere look and feel of the aforementioned sleek and ultramodern home that Viking inhabits. The look here gives a squeaky clean image to the violence that Viking has wrought.
I mentioned “Fargo” as an influence for this movie, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention “The Substitute” with Tom Berenger and, not unintentionally, William Forsythe, who plays a former crew member of Viking’s is a “middleman,” providing information to interested parties is just as humorous as the rest of the film. His wife, Ahn (Elizabeth Thai) was an absolute delight in the middle of the chaos.
I saw the film before Mr. Neeson’s interview broke. Though it explores themes of racism, his character is most certainly not. In fact, it goes out of its way to ensure that where that theme could go awry, it steers itself back on course.
Though it would probably have done better in the 1990’s, “Cold Pursuit” is timeless tail of family and revenge.
3 out of 4