Liam Neeson’s Cold Pursuit made just $10.8 million at the box office in its first weekend, giving Neeson his worst opening since 2010. The film's roll out was of course clouded by significant controversy, after Neeson touched off a firestorm with his admission that 40 years ago he sought to hunt down and kill a “black bastard” after his friend was raped by a black man.
Neeson’s controversial remarks, made in an interview with The Independent last week, were followed by an exercise in damage control by the actor. In an interview with Good Morning America, Neeson tried to clarify his remarks by suggesting he was blinded by “primal rage” at the time he went on his real life mission of revenge, and by insisting he's not a racist. Despite Neeson’s clarification, Lionsgate decided to cancel the red carpet scheduled for Cold Pursuit’s opening night.
Related: Liam Neeson Interview: Cold Pursuit
With Neeson still suffering through the backlash precipitated by his incendiary admission, Cold Pursuit opened to a chilly response from the movie-going public. In its first weekend, the film took in just $10.8 million, finishing third behind The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($34 million) and What Men Want ($19 million). The opening marks the lowest bow for a Neeson-led film since 2010’s The Next Three Days, which took in just $6.5 million when it debuted (via The Wrap). The low opening is actually in line with expectations, as tracking had Cold Pursuit taking in somewhere between $7-10 million. So even before Neeson's controversy, experts weren't expecting a big debut haul for the film.
Neeson’s last big action vehicle, 2018’s The Commuter, indeed performed little better than Cold Pursuit, opening to $13 million on its way to a $36 million total haul. The last time a Neeson action movie actually opened well was back in 2015 when Taken 3 took in $39 million its first weekend on the way to an $89 million tally. Outside the Taken trilogy, Neeson’s 2015 film Non-Stop performed well with $28 million its opening weekend and $92 million in total.
After the lukewarm response to Cold Pursuit, it’s worth asking if Neeson’s run as a bankable action hero might be coming to an end. Audiences embraced Neeson as the vengeance-seeking Bryan Mills in the Taken movies, but now that Taken is over, Neeson doesn’t seem to be holding on to that following. As ridiculous as the Taken movies may have been, the actor's last couple of films have been even more blatantly cartoonish, and that seems to have turned a lot of his fans off. It of course doesn't help that he's now gotten himself embroiled in a major controversy that could have a seriously negative effect on his career.
Source: The Wrap
- Cold Pursuit (2019) release date: Feb 08, 2019