By Richard Roeper,

Chicago Sun-Times

“Cold Pursuit”

118 minutes

R for strong violence, drug material and some language including sexual references

On the surface, “Cold Pursuit” might look like another one of those Liam Neeson thrillers a la the “Taken” franchise and “Unknown” and “The Commuter” and “Non-Stop,” in which our man plays a happily married regular fella with a seemingly ordinary and perfectly normal life, until that one life-changing thing happens, and he must morph into a fiercely determined killing machine who will let nothing stop him in his quest for justice.

Ah, but after the introduction of the first of many corpses in director Hans Petter Moland’s English-language remake of his 2014 Norwegian film “In Order of Disappearance,” it becomes evident this is going to be an action comedy, with the emphasis on the comedy.

And the comedy works beautifully because nobody in this movie realizes they’re in a comedy, and rarely does anyone try to be funny. They’re deadly serious about their deadly business, and when you’re constantly killing or trying to not get killed, there’s not much time to take a step back and say, “Hey, that was kind of hilarious.”

Neeson plays Nels Coxman (that’s right), who operates a vitally important snowplow business in the gorgeous ski town of Kehoe, Colorado, and in fact has just been honored as the town’s “Citizen of the Year,” much to the pride of his loving wife, Grace (Laura Dern).

But on the very night Nels and Grace are celebrating his honor, their son, Kyle (Micheal Richardson, Neeson’s real-life son with the late Natasha Richardson), is abducted and murdered by some very, very bad people.

The coroner says Kyle died of a heroin overdose. Nels isn’t buying it, and he begins to track down, pummel and snuff out lowlifes in his quest to find the person(s) responsible for his son’s death.

Tom Bateman brings a Loki-esque vibe to his portrayal of the sociopath drug lord known as Viking, who lives in a sleek, modern, glass-walled home worthy of an Architectural Digest spread (although the dozen or so armed bodyguards stationed about would probably have to get out of frame). Viking’s a vegan, and he takes a fanatical interest in the dietary habits of his young son, Ryan (Nicholas Holmes), berating his henchmen for sneaking treats into the kid’s school lunch.

In Nels’ single-minded quest to avenge his son’s murder, he unwittingly sets off a bloody turf war between Viking and the chief of the local Native American reservation, the antiquities (and cocaine, mostly cocaine) dealer White Bull (Tom Jackson).

Meanwhile, the energetic and enthusiastic new Kehoe Police officer Kim Dash (Emmy Rossum) is convinced there’s a huge case involving multiple murders with roots right there in their sleepy ski resort, much to the amusement of her laid-back, old-timey partner “Gip” Gipsky (John Doman). Rossum and Doman are so good and so funny together, you could cobble their scenes together and make the case for a TV pilot.

“Cold Pursuit” moves forward with the assured and deliberate force of Nels’ massive snowplow. And with Neeson/Nels at the wheel, it is one fantastically hot mess of a movie.

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