Cold Pursuit

Liam Neeson has become a reliable cinematic mainstay. Whenever he appears you know you’ll enjoy watching as he rarely chooses dud projects. Whilst a few haven’t been memorable, they’ve at least entertained viewers for the duration of the movie experience. Neeson’s stoic presence has lifted many films from their wafer thin premise. ‘Cold Pursuit’ is another in this style with its cool visual look matching Neeson’s steely gaze and icy demeanour.

Working as a snowplough driver in the Rocky Mountains, Nelson (Liam Neeson) is a respected member of the community. After being awarded its ‘Citizen of the Year’, his world is shattered when his son is murdered in strange circumstances. The trail of clues leads to dangerous drug baron Viking (Tom Bateman). Pushing his ‘nice guy persona’ into the shadows, only vengeance drives Nelson as he seeks to destroy those who have wrecked his family.

‘Cold Pursuit’ is an occasionally awkward mix of crime drama and black humour. The tale of revenge and sorrow lends itself to several serious situations, although these are lessened by vaguely comedic moments. Neeson has always chosen off-kilter projects and ‘Cold Pursuit’ matches the unusual story-telling archetype he clearly enjoys. He gives a dependable performance with his character slowly riding the cycle of revenge. Each kill strips away the man he once was with retribution the only nourishment for his hollow heart.

‘Cold Pursuit’ really hits goals with striking cinematography. The snow-scapes in which Nelson reside loom large over the wayward characters. The pure white snow is the opposite of the black, shady dealings in which all are involved. Tom Bateman as Viking exudes required menace as the evil gangster even if he over-plays his role a little. The music score is also a plus with silence just as important as the spoken word.

A mid-range Liam Neeson movie, ‘Cold Pursuit’ does provide captivating viewing. It has pacing issues and needed more re-writing in order to tighten its narrative. Overall it’s a general solid movie with Neeson’s reliability as a performer still intact.

Rating out of 10: 6

Escape Room

For centuries, mazes have fascinated people. In today’s terms, walking a maze is like taking a ‘journey’. Where will the maze lead to? What is around the corner? How will I get out? Such a simple premise offers a myriad of questions with the suspense of not knowing where the path will go adding to the fun. ‘Escape Room’ makes much of this with a taut script successfully conjuring the apprehension one feels when facing the unknown.

Six strangers, including Zoey (Taylor Russell), Ben (Logan Miller) and Jason (Jay Ellis), meet in peculiar circumstances. Given mysterious black boxes with tickets to an escape room with the chance of winning money, the would-be contestants take up the challenge. Locked in several rooms that swiftly reveal their sinister nature, the group face peril. Using their wits to survive, they must wrestle free of their fate and discover the mastermind behind the deadly rooms.

Directed by Adam Robitel, ‘Escape Room’ mostly makes good use of its intriguing premise. With escape rooms and mazes surging in popularity in the recent era, the film gives a scary sheen to the analytical past-time. Unlike countless other horror/thriller films where grisly gore becomes its reason for being, ‘Escape Room’ has flair with characters forced to use their brains and partake in very dangerous team-work. This enables genuine tension with the atmosphere going up a notch every time the participants enter a newer and deadlier room.

Although the characters could have been more sympathetic, the cast successfully convey the terror they feel. ‘Escape Room’ is more a suspense film than horror with the writer’s imagination in creating each new vile scenario ghoulishly admirable. The production design equals the script’s imaginative quirks with supposedly simple sets offering a myriad of lethal exits. Occasionally the plot follows a predictable path but provides several surprises to keep viewers guessing.

‘Escape Room’ is a competent entry in the genre with twists arriving at break-neck speed. It’s doubtful it will prevent people from wanting to navigate such investigative games as their allure can be palatable. What’s not in doubt is cinema will follow any trends with the maze to box office dollars a temptation difficult to resist.

Rating out of 10: 6