FIVE years ago, Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland brought an ace little comedy thriller, In Order of Disappearance, to the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

It had “destined for American remake” written all over it, and here we are. Moland is still in charge but there’s a new title and a different leading man, with Stellan Skarsgard replaced by Liam Neeson.

Ordinarily, a director might reckon they had hit the jackpot with Neeson, star of Taken, but we know how that turned out (see “I’m not racist says Neeson" and five million other articles). The film has not done well in the US, earning just $22 million (the first Taken, in comparison, grossed $227 million), which might be the Neeson effect, but it could equally be that the movie has not translated well. Dripping with bleak Scandi humour, this is a difficult film to get a handle on, and to like.

Brian Beacom on Neeson storm

It opens with Nels Coxman (Neeson) getting ready to pick up an award for citizen of the year. Nels is the driver of the snow plough in a small Colorado ski town outside Denver. From the moment he tells the audience that he “picked a good road and stayed on it” you just know his life is about to turn to yellow snow.

Sure enough, his son, a baggage handler at the local airport, is found dead. A drug overdose, say police. My son didn’t take drugs, says dad and resolves to investigate the case himself. Before you can yawn, “Well, this is all very familiar territory” he is working his way up the chain of command of a drugs gang, dispensing very rough justice as he goes.

Letters: Neeson wrong but not a racist

Taken is at least laughably cheesy. Cold Pursuit is just, well, cold. It is meant to be funny, you can see what the gags are supposed to be a mile off, but the comedy takes forever to warm up. It eventually does, and the picture begins to fulfil some of its original promise, but who has the patience to wait around for that to happen? The Tarantino of 20 years ago might have made the material work, or the Coen brothers, but the pacing here is badly off and the attempts at humour too heavy handed.

That is before Neeson’s performance, where he is aiming for strong and silent but comes across as almost entirely devoid of emotion. Among its saving graces, the film does have a thoroughly nasty villain, The Viking, played by Tom Bateman, but compared to Neeson boring on there is not nearly enough of him. Ditto Emmy Rossum as the local, Fargoesque cop who starts to put two and two together about the multiple murders in the area. Still, the Colorado scenery is spectacular. Perhaps Neeson will stick to that topic when doing publicity for his next movie.