At this stage, it’s hard not to think of Liam Neeson lazily hamming it up as something of a walking cliche, given his seemingly endless conveyor belt roles of Relentless Mad Dad characters.
And – surprise – that’s exactly what he’s doing in this week’s film, Cold Pursuit (Cert 16, 118 mins), which yet again sees the dulcet-toned star pushed too far and – well, at this stage, you can probably guess the rest.
You’d be forgiven if you hadn’t heard of Cold Pursuit: it’s the new film he was supposed to be promoting on its recent release when he cannonballed into hot water instead, making global headlines about his ill-advised comments on – well, you probably know the rest there, too.
While the world read agog about a pre-fame, young Neeson roaming the streets in a racially-charged mood of vigilantism, nobody paid much attention to the fact that he had a new film out.
That’s a shame, because with the conversation becoming all about young Neeson, the film itself became lost in the blizzard of headlines about him.
And blizzards and snow are at the heart of the Colorado-set film, where Neeson’s character is anything but flakey.
He plays everyman character Nelson Coxman (a surname that’s something of a running joke): a snowplow operator extraordinaire, loving husband and dad, proud new recipient of his town’s Citizen of the Year award – and an ice-cold killer when his son is imaginatively murdered by a local drug cartel.
While his wife (a criminally underused Laura Dean) pretty much falls to pieces after the murder, our revenge-driven Mr Plow decides it’s time to clear the streets … of drug dealers, as the local cops do their best to keep up with events.
Nelson’s shifty brother with a crooked past gives him the Intel he needs on the gang that killed his son, setting him up to set off on a violence-fuelled process of elimination (literally) as he churns through the chain.
Complicating matters, another cartel – this time run by Native Americans – gets drawn into the increasingly violent mess, with Nelson doing his damnedest to play both sides against each other.
The film isn’t exactly carving out a new path for Neeson, but it’s handsomely shot with some beautiful Canadian scenery standing in for a deep-chilled Colorado.
It’s also laced through with black humour and sprinkled with some style.
It’s not quite in, say, Coen Brothers or Tarantino territory, but has enough directorial touches to give it a fresh identity.
You might even say it’s a cool new Liam Neeson film (pun intended), but despite its admitted strengths, it’s resolutely just another Mad Dad character for him.
Time to plow ahead with some new roles, Liam.