‘Cold Pur­suit’ is feel­ing the heat

Amid con­tro­versy, Nee­son in re­venge tale

USA TODAY US Edition - - LIFE - Brian Truitt USA TO­DAY

In the midst of the Liam Nee­son con­tro­versy rag­ing last week, the one thing left out in the cold is “Cold Pur­suit.”

The worst thing that could hap­pen to the darkly comic, Tarantino-es­que re­venge thriller (in the­aters now) did.

The movie’s Ir­ish star re­vealed to a jour­nal­ist for Bri­tain’s The In­de­pen­dent that he once searched for a ran­dom black per­son to kill af­ter a loved one’s rape.

Sure, Nee­son said that he looks back at the in­ci­dent with shame and re­gret (“It was hor­ri­ble, hor­ri­ble, when I think back, that I did that”) and told Robin Roberts that he’s “not racist” on “Good Morn­ing Amer­ica.”

But it’ll def­i­nitely turn off some movie­go­ers who would have watched him hunt down crim­i­nals as a griev­ing fa­ther aveng­ing his dead son.

The hub­bub, how­ever, may not de­ter hard­core Nee­son-philes or those who need the R-rated ac­tion that a “Lego Movie” se­quel can’t pro­vide.

For any­one who may have a few burn­ing ques­tions about “Cold Pur­suit,” here are some (mostly) help­ful an­swers.

Why are we get­ting yet an­other Liam Nee­son re­venge movie?

His 2009 ac­tion film “Taken” not only be­came a big hit, but cre­ated a cot­tage in­dus­try for Nee­son as a griz­zled, gray­haired ac­tion hero show­ing off his par­tic­u­lar set of skills. (Not one of them? Tim­ing, ap­par­ently.)

What’s the least we need to know go­ing in?

Snow­plow driver Nels Cox­man (Nee­son), a help­ful, stoic dude named “Cit­i­zen of the Year” in his Colorado resort town,turns vig­i­lante when his son Kyle (Micheal Richard­son) is mis­tak­enly killed by goons work­ing for Den­ver drug lord Vik­ing (Tom Bate­man).

Nels starts tak­ing out those in­volved, and finds him­self on the radar of a cou­ple of lo­cal cops (Emmy Ros­sum and John Do­man), and un­know­ingly ig­nites a snowy turf war be­tween Vik­ing – who would like to know why his min­ions are dis­ap­pear­ing, thank you very much – and a group of Na­tive Amer­i­can gang­sters run by the ag­ing White Bull (Tom Jack­son).

What’s Nee­son’s role like?

For a guy whose day job is op­er­at­ing a snow­plow, Nels is crazy ef­fi­cient moon­light­ing as an an­ti­hero.

Plus, he’s prac­ti­cal, mak­ing sure to al­ways find out the next guy up the food chain be­fore elim­i­nat­ing his cur­rent vic­tim – whether us­ing his bare hands or a sawed-off hunt­ing ri­fle.

Wait. So what is the best rea­son to see ‘Cold Pur­suit’?

That prize goes to the Bri­tish Bate­man (“Mur­der on the Ori­ent Ex­press”). His Vik­ing is se­ri­ously fun to watch.

He’s a psy­cho ve­gan vil­lain who drives a Tesla, sticks to a crim­i­nal honor code, and makes his goons and his young son drink green smooth­ies while also out­law­ing Fruity Peb­bles for break­fast. Which is to­tally a jerk move.

Would Tom Bate­man be a bet­ter Bat­man or Su­per­man?

Since we like to at­tach ac­tors to su­per­hero va­can­cies, Bate­man is more of a Bat­man.

He’s got the look of rich guy down, plus his jaw’s square enough for the fa­mous cowl.

Hon­estly, slap some face paint on him and the men­ac­ing Bate­man would be a fan­tas­tic Joker.

But back to the sub­ject at hand …

Who else is in this movie that we might know?

Folks will know Ros­sum from Show­time’s “Shame­less” and rec­og­nize Forsythe as a long­time tough-guy char­ac­ter ac­tor in var­i­ous movies and TV shows.

Laura Dern has a small sup­port­ing role as Nels’ griev­ing wife Grace while Domenick Lom­bar­dozzi, an alum of “The Wire” and “Board­walk Em­pire,” plays Vik­ing’s right-hand man Mus­tang.

What might get lost in all the Nee­son con­tro­versy?

Sneaked in be­tween Nels’ earnest re­venge plot line and Vik­ing’s ridicu­lous gang­ster story is a nu­anced nar­ra­tive about White Bull’s crime syn­di­cate re­turn­ing to land where their an­ces­tors were pushed out.

Is this OK for my kids to see?

That would be a no. Though a young boy is a key as­pect of the story, the Rrated movie is chock-full of vi­o­lence.

What kind of death toll are we talk­ing here?

We stopped count­ing at 12 be­fore things got re­ally crazy.

So, all things Liam con­sid­ered, how cool ex­actly is ‘Cold Pur­suit’?

The movie will for­ever be haunted by Nee­son’s con­fes­sion. Still, for those fa­mil­iar with his usual fare – and ac­tion movies – it’s a fresh breath of air that op­er­ates on an im­pres­sive level of silli­ness: Even an out-of-nowhere ’90s song “Bar­bie Girl” doesn’t feel out of place.

DOANE GRE­GORY

Liam Nee­son stars as a man who turns vig­i­lante when his son is mur­dered in “Cold Pur­suit.”

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