Cold Hell (2018)
If you’re anything like me, you have probably heard some positive buzz about the Austrian (German?) cat-and-mouse film, Cold Hell. It made some waves on the festival circuit before being added as an exclusive to Shudder’s streaming features lineup. So, if you want to stream this one (legally of course) you gotta… A) get that Shudder sub you’ve been putting off B) go log in to your Shudder account C) use your mom and dad’s account. Those are your only three options. I should know – I’ve been using your mom and dad’s account for over a year! I josh, but the bottom line is that I watched Cold Hell. Since you’re already here, why don’t you go ahead read my synopsis and review?
Ozge is a take-no-shit taxi driver who shows early on that she’s not to be fucked with. This is proven when a couple of posturing assholes who are blocking the road try to intimidate her when she honks and asks them to move. That doesn’t go over so well for them since she’s a Thai boxing champ. One night she happens to catch a glimpse of a sadistic, murderer who kills and tortures sex workers for fanatical religious reasons. Since Ozge is now a witness, that puts her squarely in the madman’s sights. The cops aren’t a whole lot of help, but one detective takes a special interest in Ozge’s case. He reluctantly helps her out as she evades the killer, goes on the offensive, and faces off with the killer.
Cold Hell has a lot going for it. Ozge – played superbly by Violetta Schurawlow – is a well fleshed out, strong female protagonist. She’s tough but very human with flaws, feelings, and passions. She also enjoys some of the same creative license that we’ve seen male action heroes enjoy for (cinematic) time immemorial – she gets the shit kicked out of her and keeps on kicking back. It’s rather refreshing. But don’t let me give you the wrong impression, this isn’t an action film. Sure, it’s got quite a bit of action and fighting, but it’s a cat-and-mouse thriller through-and-through. Ozge’s life as a poor immigrant makes her a particularly isolated and disadvantaged target for the killer. She runs into financial and social obstacles that would not hamper an Anglo / native / financially stable Austrian. Her situation adds a nice layer of depth to the film. Perfect review so far, right? (uh oh) The film is pretty good, but it’s not perfect. There are some very uneven stakes. Ozge goes directly from a heart-pounding encounter with the murderer to a seemingly casual pit stop at the apartment where she’s staying. She just strolls in like she’s coming home from a trip to the store and calls out to see if anyone is home. When there is inexplicably no answer, she still doesn’t seem too concerned. Like she’s looking for her cat. There’s a damned psychopath hunting you, Ozge! Now’s the time to be concerned when things seem amiss! Again – and I want to stress this – the film is pretty good. It’s a nail-biter for sure. But the uneven stakes aren’t the only thing keeping this from being a glowing review. At the risk of letting slip a minor spoiler, I have to point out that the romantic connection that develops in the film is a seriously inorganic and contrived shoehorn. The characters and their relationship are not developed with nearly enough depth for the audience to understand why they would be drawn to one another. Sure, with some mental elbow grease, we could rationalize the development of the relationship, but the only ways that I can come up with weaken the strong female protagonist. Which kinda sucks. (maybe my mental elbow grease isn’t working so well though. who knows)
The Final Cut: Cold Hell is an exciting cat-and-mouse thriller with a vile villain, a tough-as-nails protagonist, and deep social criticism. Uneven stakes and a weak romantic thread keep it from being great though.