*ing: Liam Neeson, Laura Dern, Emmy Rossum, William Forsythe, and Tom Bateman
Directed by Hans Petter Moland
Tagline: Revenge is best served cold.
No one could have foreseen that a controversy over a random revelation by actor Liam Neeson - regarding something awful he considered doing nearly forty years ago but then didn’t actually do and is immensely ashamed about - would end up completely overshadowing the film Cold Pursuit.
But it is easy to see why director Hans Petter Moland chose to put the actor in charge of this vehicle. Riding high on a late-career resurgence as an action hero, Neeson’s particular set of skills were fitting for a film that builds on and then wryly subverts the parent-seeking-revenge trope while ramping up the absurdity to shape an offbeat dark comedy.
The movie tells the story of a snowplough driver, Nels Coxman (portrayed by Neeson), who goes from being the citizen of the year to a vigilante on a mission to avenge his son’s (Micheal Richardson, Neeson’s real-life son) death. He gradually kills his way through a drug cartel that’s led by the ruthless Viking (Tom Bateman), who, in the meantime, manages to spark a gang war with a rival, Native American drug lord (Tom Jackson).
The quirky tale plays out like Taken meets Fargo with shades of Quentin Tarantino, as dry wit and dark humour colour the proceedings.
Not all of its punches land and some pacing issues slow the action down at times, but Moland brings enough off-kilter twists and stylistic flair to the project (which is a remake of his own 2014 Norwegian movie In Order of Disappearance) to keep things interesting. A quirky running gag that commemorates each of the deaths onscreen is particularly memorable and gets funnier as the film progresses.
The actors are well-suited for their roles, although the female cast doesn’t have quite as much to do as you’d hope. Julia Jones holds her own as Viking’s ex-wife, but Emmy Rossum’s rookie cop character doesn’t live up to its potential. And based on the casting, you’d think Laura Dern - who plays Coxman’s wife - would have an integral part in the storyline but her appearance here is disappointingly brief.
All in all, Cold Pursuit might not have you emotionally invested in its characters, but it offers enough intriguing touches and amusing turns to keep viewers fairly entertained.
The Kid Who Would Be King***
*ing: Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Dean Chaumoo, Tom Taylor, Rhianna Dorris, Rebecca Ferguson, Angus Imrie, and Patrick Stewart
Written and directed by Joe Cornish
Tagline: An army to fight. A demon to slay. A world to save. No pressure.
Joe Cornish puts a modern spin on the Arthurian legend in The Kid Who Would Be King, a charming fantasy adventure that brings a classic tale into contemporary times. The story revolves around 12 year-old Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis - yes, that’s Andy Serkis’s son), whose best friend Bedders (Dean Chaumoo) is being bullied at school by older students, Lance (Tom Taylor) and Kaye (Rhianna Dorris).
When Alex stumbles upon and retrieves a mysterious sword, it turns out that he has found Excalibur, the sword of King Arthur. As wicked sorceress Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson) re-emerges with nefarious intentions, it is up to Alex to turn his foes into allies, stop the evil enchantress, and save the world from destruction.
With a little help from the wizard Merlin - both in his young (Angus Imrie) and old (Patrick Stewart) physical form - the protagonist and his cohorts set out on a journey that seems overly familiar but charming nonetheless. The film is aimed primarily at the younger audience; grownups too are likely to enjoy revisiting a tale they probably first came upon in their childhood, although they will have to exercise their suspension of disbelief skills as things move along. Yes, the kids learn fighting skills ridiculously quickly, and no, how things unfold isn’t quite convincing, but there is enough gusto here to keep you rooting for the heroes.
The villain, however, is one of the movie’s weaker elements, never menacing enough to be as effective as the film would have hoped and in considerable need of more development.
As for the casting, the young cast delivers good performances, even if their work might not be extraordinary. The standout here is Angus Imrie who steals the show whenever he is onscreen; his older counterpart, Patrick Stewart, is, like always, fun to watch as well.
On the whole, The Kid Who Would Be King lacks the visual or thematic inventiveness that could have made it truly impressive. But the film’s humorous touches and amicable tone make sure that the adventure remains entertaining while it delivers moral lessons about friendship, loyalty, chivalry, and perseverance.
Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only *** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection