We won’t beat around the bush – Liam Neeson has had a lousy week. After an interview about revenge went sideways while Neeson recounted a personal anecdote, there has been all sorts of fallout, from people labeling him a racist to the premiere of his new movie, “Cold Pursuit,” being unceremoniously canceled. Our interactions with Neeson have been few and far between over the years but we’ve always found him to be warm, personable, and intelligent, and what’s more, “Cold Pursuit” is an absolutely terrific movie, so getting to talk with him about this project was an absolute thrill.
“Cold Pursuit” is the story of an average man (Neeson), whose son is killed in a suspected overdose but he knows that something is amiss and goes on a quest for revenge. While that might sound like any number of films in Neeson’s post-“Taken” oeuvre, it’s actually quite different, threading the needle of gallows humor and extreme violence expertly, like a top tier Coen Brothers movie (or, given the movie’s snowy, isolated setting, an A+ season of “Fargo”). In short, it rules.
So, without any other hemming or hawing, here is our brief chat with Mr. Neeson, star of “Cold Pursuit” (which, again, is really great).
What first brought you to the project?
Well Micheal Shamberg, our wonderful producer, screened the original Norwegian film for me, which I loved. I loved the whole mixture of genres – it’s quite violent but there’s an incredible streak of dark, gorgeous humor going through it all.
You’ve done a number of these muscular thrillers before but what was the specific appeal of “Cold Pursuit?”
Well, the other guys I’ve played, like especially in “Taken,” have a “certain set of skills.” This guy is a total amateur, you know? He’s happily married to the great Laura Dern and we lose a son and this guy goes on a quest for revenge. But he’s a total amateur. But he opens this can of worms and gets involved in these drug cartels in this sleepy little town in the middle of Colorado and I just loved the dark humor of the whole thing.
On “Cold Pursuit” you’re working with a director and cinematographer making their English-language debuts. What was that experience like?
Well … how different was it from other stuff? They just have a European/Scandinavian sensibility to it. Don’t ask me what that is. It’s just a different take from say an American director would have done or even a British director would have done. [Director] Hans [Petter Moland] is an ex-actor, from the world of theater (which I am as well), we had a shorthand language, very laid back, very calm, with this knowing smile on his face. He wasn’t scared to bring out the black humor of certain scenes. I had a great time with him. I’d love to work with him again.
It’s kind of a hard movie to describe. How would you describe “Cold Pursuit?”
“Cold Pursuit” is a love story that bleeds into revenge quite early on that bleeds into the ridiculousness of the human condition, how funny we are, unintentionally funny, as a species. And I think audiences will have a really good time.
“Cold Pursuit” is out everywhere Friday.