“COLD PURSUIT” QUIRKY COMIC ACTION; “PROVEN INNOCENT” ON TV
A Film and TV Review by Tim Riley
“COLD PURSUIT” Rated R Prolific for his vengeance-seeking action roles late in his career, Liam Neeson’s image as the righteous pursuer of justice in films like the “Taken” franchise took a big hit with a self-destructive interview tinged with disturbing racist sentiment.
In the terminology of tennis, Neeson’s talk was an unforced error that undermines “Cold Pursuit,” which is unfortunate in that this Norwegian-inspired thriller taps into dark comedy as if it were an homage to the Coen Brothers. A humble snowplow driver in a Colorado ski resort town, Neeson’s Nels Coxman is honored as the Citizen of the Year for his upright dedication to his community and as a faithful public servant.
Yet, his life is soon completely upended when his only son Kyle (Micheal Richardson), an airport baggage handler, is killed by drug cartel thugs over a missing cocaine shipment. Kyle’s death is ruled an overdose, but Coxman suspects otherwise. Without the benefit of his usual “particular set of skills” in other action films, Neeson’s character faces a learning curve in the killing business, but he seems to catch on fairly quickly.
His first clue to the identity of his son’s killers leads to a bleached-blonde scumbag named Speedo (Michael Eklund) who mockingly dismisses Coxman as an “old man” before getting pummeled to death. As the others responsible for his son’s murder soon meet their fate, the crime boss Trevor “Viking” Calcote (Tom Bateman) takes notice and mistakenly thinks a rival Native American gang has started a turf war. An arrogant psychopath, Viking wages a custody battle with his ex-wife over his young son that he treats with disdain, telling him to read “Lord of the Flies” as a manual for coping with life.
A good chunk of the middle portion of the film is devoted to Viking’s brewing conflict with the Native American drug gang under the control of the inscrutable White Bull (Tom Jackson), who seeks his own brand of justice when his son is killed. Meanwhile, a patrol team of the ski town’s police officers, veteran (John Doman) and an eager rookie (Emmy Rossum), have little to do, outside of writing parking tickets, other than engaging in a lot of amusing banter that adds to the film’s comic tone.
“Cold Pursuit” revels in its quirky pitch. One of the best comical scenes takes place at an upscale resort hotel when the clerk asks the Native American gang attempting to get a room if they have a “reservation,” an innocent question perceived as a cultural affront. Filled with gallows humor and black comedy (thugs have ludicrous nicknames like “The Eskimo,” “Santa,” and “Limbo”), “Cold Pursuit,” which allows Liam Neeson to engage in another killing spree, is delightful pulp fiction. “Cold Pursuit,” though at times somewhat disjointed, excites with its morbid wit and offbeat characters, tapping into the spirit of Quentin Tarantino films and Leonard Elmore novels.
“PROVEN INNOCENT” ON FOX NETWORK
As the title implies, “Proven Innocent,” the new legal drama on the FOX network, focuses on a team of lawyers taking the cases of persons in jeopardy of being wrongfully convicted for serious criminal offenses. The Chicago-based Injustice Defense League, consisting of defense attorney Easy Boudreau (Russell Hornsby), investigator Bodie Quick (Vincent Kartheiser) and podcaster and communications director Violet Price (Nikki M. James), are up against prosecutor Gore Bellows (Kelsey Grammer).
The firm’s rising star defense attorney Madeline Scott (Rachelle Lefevre) has a personal stake in exonerating the falsely convicted because as a teenager, along with her brother Levi (Riley Smith), she was sent to prison for the killing of her high school best friend. After being absolved of the murder and getting a college degree while spending 10 years in prison, Madeline went on to graduate from Yale Law School at the top of her class and then partnered with Easy Boudreau, the lawyer who helped overturn her conviction.
Surprise (not really), the prosecutor who put Madeline in the slammer is none other than Gore Bellows, a slick political opportunist now planning a run for Illinois Attorney General based on his track record of criminal convictions. While the arrogant Bellows doesn’t have a mustache to twirl, Kelsey Grammer brings to this role the right measure of somber conviction and slippery smugness to fulfill the necessary plot device of a villain ending up in the League’s crosshairs.
Meanwhile, there are many ongoing flashbacks to the murder of the high school girl that, at least in the early stages, leave unanswered questions, such as whether Madeline or her brother might really be innocent after all. These questions are certainly not doubted by the prosecutor who put the sibling behind bars. Gore Bellows still holds the opinion that Madeline is guilty, telling her the very same when they meet in court. “Proven Innocent” doesn’t seem to be on a path to be as compelling as a modern-day “Perry Mason” or other appealing courtroom dramas that don’t immediately come to mind. Friday nights could be better spent on something else.