There are few constants in this cruel, cold universe, but one thing we can count on is Liam Neeson destroying anyone who messes with his fictional family in literally every single one of his new movies. Since the smash-success of the Taken franchise, Neeson has perfected a surprising and consistent art form: he’s become the dad-version of Dirty Harry, daring bad guys to make his day by giving him an excuse to crush them.
The trailer for Neeson’s next film — Cold Pursuit — is no exception to this formula. “I’m just a guy who keeps a strip of civilization open,” Neeson’s everyman character says in the trailer. In the movie, that’s a reference to him literally driving a plow through the snow, but in our civilization, Neeson serves a very specific cinematic function. He personifies revenge fantasies in movies like this, and it works, because he’s very calm and collected about destroying the people who have wronged him.
The reason why the Taken movies worked is that Neeson-revenge movies flipped-the-script on the whole bad-guy-reveals-his-plan-to-the-hero trope. In a Liam Neeson revenge movie, the good guy very calmly explains his kickass plan, and then simply carries it out with workmanlike precision. Sure, there will be flashes of anger in these movies, but Neeson isn’t chewing the scenery with speeches about avenging himself upon the bad guys, because, that would make him sound crazy. Instead, like all of his other movies exactly like this, Neeson is super calm.
In the Cold Pursuit trailer, Neeson is asked: “why do you think you can kill someone?” The response? “I read about it in a crime novel.” This is brilliant in its simplicity but it also acknowledges outright that every single dad (and mom) in the audience thinks that they too, would become Liam Neeson if the situation arose, not because we have read crime novels, but because we have seen Liam Neeson movies. The fantasy isn’t the revenge action movie part. The fantasy is Neeson’s cool attitude about the whole enterprise of being a one-man wrecking machine.
This time, having the cold badassery of Liam Neeson be literally embedded in the snow is very smart. But that decision is only made better because the word “cold” is in the title, too.
Cold Pursuit is out February 8, 2019.
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