Is this controversial thriller Liam Neeson’s swansong?

Is this controversial thriller Liam Neeson’s swansong? Liam Neeson stars in Cold Pursuit


Why would one of the most beloved actors of our country, someone who received a tsunami of reverence for the dignified manner in which he dealt with the freakish death of his wife Natasha some years ago, commit career suicide through a racist rant?

Unless you’ve been living under a stone in recent months you’ll know that in an interview to promote this violent, blackly comic film in which he plays a Colorado-based snow plough operator who goes on a revenge mission after his son is killed by hoodlums, he revealed that, some four decades ago, after a friend of his informed him she’d been raped by a black man, he went on something of a revenge mission himself.

He ventured into seedy areas in the hope that he would be confronted by a black man, any black man, upon whom he could unleash his wrath.

Because of his inflammatory comments, Neeson subsequently became a pariah in Hollywood, a quarantine he still inhabits. Will it prove to be his last film? If so, maybe it’s a blessing in disguise. On his own admission, he was getting too old to play the action hero anyway. And Cold Pursuit is unsettlingly reminiscent of the Taken franchise in both theme and tone.

But I still feel very sorry for him. It would be a shame if he had to shuffle off into the celluloid sunset under the cloud that now enshrouds him.

I don’t, by the way, for a second believe he’s a racist. His crime was naiveté. Real racists express their venom behind closed doors or on back streets, far from anywhere they could be damaged by them. Neeson casually volunteered his primeval feelings in a ho-hum interview. Racism wasn’t even on the agenda.

Why? Because, he said, he wanted to describe the manner in which so-called civilised man is at times only a hair’s breadth away from his barbaric predecessors.

Yes, Liam, we get that bit. But did you not realise it’s not okay to say you once harboured the desire to harm black people randomly?

Seasoned pro

If he was a kid on the cusp of a burgeoning career I could understand his foot-in-mouth disease. But we’re talking about a seasoned pro. He had everything to lose and nothing to gain by regaling his interviewer with his age-old bout of recklessness.

If I was that interviewer, I’d like to think I would have said: “Liam, I presume what you’ve just told me is off the record because if I run it your career is over.” She didn’t, though.

So for now the man who could do no wrong for so long has been consigned to the dustbin of the glitterati.

I hope he emerges from it some day. In the meantime, see Cold Pursuit. Apart from being a captivating film, it’s probably the last time you’ll be seeing the Big Man on the big screen for a long, long time.

Very Good ****