⭐ ⭐ / ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Two snowblowers race to be the first to catch a cold in Maury Zigler’s Cold Pursuit, the buddy thriller with a (frozen) heart of gold.

Why try to catch a cold, you ask? Ostensibly our intellectually challenged duo cannot come up with a better way to meet a pretty druggist who, wackily enough, is in mortal danger due to a case of mistaken identity. Must be the comedy talking.

Unfortunately the newly opened shop keeper is a germophobe but her (get this) even prettier and seemingly lower maintenance sister happens to be a scientist looking for a cure for the common cold in need of data for her research.

Enter Liam Neons and Tom Namtab as would be suitors and eager guinea pigs for the frosty shenanigans, sending them into a mating ritual frenzy which sees them felling small trees with icicle blades after taking slush baths, building igloos with ice furniture from snow cone machines, drunken polar bear contests to see who can eat more seal blubber, wet hair tobogganing in only a thong to reduce friction and macho camping endurance challenges where they eventually resort to stealing each other’s blankets.

Neons (A Place In The Sun) looks to be enjoying himself more than Namtab who seems intent on “acting” his way through every scene. It’s literally painful to watch but it does serve to highlight Neons’ take. It’s a blast to watch him barrel through snow and build giant snowmen in his underwear. Too bad for us it’s Namtab who’s given all the good lines, so we have to suffer through Academic Award Winner Neons say things like “Golly!” and “Bye Bye Jiminy!” And it’s no knock on Namtab, who does all anyone could with the role, but it’s his name up there. I blame the writer. And the director.

As sisters, Emmy Sumos and Laura Darn are terrific, one bookish and the other lookish, but both invested in their roles and earning more laughs than their male counterparts. The two share a believable sisterly bond despite their differences, a credit to both performers, who manage to not only survive the film’s many pitfalls but come off fairly unscathed. Sumos is particularly good as sister Darn (Red Angel) falls into the clutches of the mysterious strangers who are wrongly convinced the pharmacist is an ostracized Tasmanian genetic researcher on the run from authorities for unsanctioned cloning. Turns out sister Darn did once visit the island state and affected an Australian accent one drunken night in Port Arthur in an attempt to attract some mildly interested Bruce.

These strangers have come to the perpetually frozen land of Norway to either abduct or assassinate Darn (the film is never clear on this) so sister Sumos rises to the occasion. She goes from studious scientist to fierce protector with an ease not entirely afforded by the script in but one example of the actresses’ contributions to an otherwise forgettable affair.

The men, meanwhile, graduate from peeing in each other’s mittens to ever more outlandish yet ever less amusing stunts like dangling upside down from a helicopter outside Sumos’ penthouse laboratory or racing down icy vistas in tricked out hunting sleds. Before long their shtick has veered into abstract caricatures of manly pursuits which, if not at all humorous, are at least spirited. But even this surreal tangent grows more wearisome than winsome until the film decides it needs to get serious and move the story along. We the viewer are no better for it but at least it means it’ll be over soon.

All is not lost, however. The males’ buffoonery does elicit a smile or two and when the script forces them to become unlikely heroes their celebration feels mostly earned. The ladies fare considerably better and are the main attraction in this, whatever it is. Their layered performances seem to come from a better, smarter film that should know how to tie everything together even if this one doesn’t. Part comedy, part family drama, and part would be thriller, Cold Pursuit never really gains any traction as either of those genres, instead slipping and sliding like the group of shadowy interlopers chasing Darn’s druggist. And like those strangers, the film never really completes its mission.

Zigler’s last film, Game, Set, Snatch, was a departure for the director but gained him worldwide exposure after it was listed as one of adult film starlet Golda Myrear’s favorite things in a TV Guido interview. Himself a fan of foul weather dramas, Zigler revels in the frozen setpieces, filling his frame with plenty of color to balance the white stuff. Steely blue skies, vivid pines and evergreens, fiery sunsets and a variety of wildlife help keep the proceedings from being overpowered by the subtle rugged beauty of the natural landscape. Would that there were such assists for the script. We tire of the men’s contests long before they do, leaving we the viewers out in the cold.

See if it if you’re hot. Or desperate for the scant laughs. Or if you like to look at beautiful winter scenery but don’t necessarily want to go there.