Cold Blood


Reviewed by: Jane Fae

Jean Reno in Cold Blood
"This is a thoughtful, suspenseful film." | Photo: Screen Media

Jaded professional hitman and assassin played by Jean Reno, check. Young damsel in distress, check. Some pretty nifty wetwork involving ice bullets, check.

You'd be forgiven for assuming, at first sight, that Cold Blood, a modern film noir directed and written by French screenwriter Frédéric Petitjean is a re-run of Nineties cult classic Léon: The Professional. And yes, without dropping any spoilers, there are some very definite thematic similarities. But they are subtle, and in tone, in pace, in pretty much every way, Cold Blood is a darker, more thoughtful film dealing with issues of regret and abandonment and, perhaps, betrayal.

Copy picture

The latter because in the end it turns out that maybe the good guys are not quite as good as you thought. Or are they? Because one significant criticism of Cold Blood is that it is subtle. Perhaps even too subtle. At any rate, it is not the sort of film to watch alongside an annoying elderly relative – you know the type: they have to nudge you every few minutes to ask just what is going on now! - and, since I fear I did not quite work out all of the plot, maybe that now includes myself.

The set-up is simple. We start with a hit. Jean Reno, playing a role that he has pretty much made his own, takes out a businessman in broad daylight, in the middle of a sauna, using that most interesting of assassination devices, an ice bullet.

Cut to Washington State (which is the large snowy one on the top left of the US), where a young woman, Melody (Sarah Lind), is hiring a snowmobile, on which she plans to cross the Rockies. Vroom! She's off and, following a rather nasty accident, crawling desperately through the snow in search of help.

Which she finds, wonder of wonders, in the person of Jean Reno/Henry, who appears to have swapped urban living for the isolation of a lakeside cabin, where he lives a back-to-basics Bear Grylls lifestyle, fishing fishes through the ice and killing the occasional deer. One suspects he is not getting his five a day of fruit and veg.

Situation deftly established, much of the rest of the film is a two-hander, focussing in on the growing relationship between Henry and Melody and its gradual evolution from one of total suspicion (Reno has chosen this cabin very explicitly for the fact that it is off the beaten track, accessible only by foot or water) to what appears to be grudging respect and, who knows, perhaps romance is in the air?

Cabin action is punctuated from time to time by backstory and manhunt in the form of detective Kappa (Joe Anderson) who investigated the original murder and who has, for reasons not entirely clear, decided to swap the stresses of big city East Coast policing for a new career as sheriff in the remote Washington wilderness.

This – see note on elderly relatives! - was the least satisfying plot element in a film that otherwise appeared to be aiming throughout for a realistic style. The pedant in me could not quite work out how – or why – the various protagonists in this tale managed to end up in the same small, back of beyond, bit of Washington State. Or maybe I wasn't paying proper attention. Could you, maybe, just explain that last bit again? You know: the one where the incompetent hitman (David Gyasi) turns up and... ooops! Sorry. No spoilers.

Briefly, I speculated that the real reason might have had something to do with the production company doing a deal with Washington State: location filming rights in exchange for loads of pretty, snow-covered subtle state promo. But checking the credits, it turns out that much of the filming took place in the Carpathians, two continents and an ocean away. So it can't have been that.

This is a thoughtful, suspenseful film. You can tell by the fact that Henry is a quiet, thoughtful type who not only reads Sun Tzu's Art Of War for relaxation, but can also quote meaningfully from it when required to. Ah, yes: the philosopher hit man! Because we assume, as popular trope, that someone whose daily routine involves the dealing of death is also a wise person, who has thought much on the meaning of life...and not a psychopath who just enjoys killing people for money.

In tone, in plot, very much a farewell to arms. Until the next film with a vacancy for a cool, collected hit man pops up.

And Melody...well, Melody fits the role of mystery young woman to a T. Although, it is obvious from the start that there is a twist coming and those familiar with this genre of film may guess it, as I did - in outline, if not the precise way in which matters are going to play out.

An entertaining use of 90 minutes.

Reviewed on: 01 Jul 2019
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A hit-man lives isolated in a cabin at the edge of a lake. One day, an injured woman arrives in front of his house. To save her, he could well risk his own life.

Director: Frédéric Petitjean

Writer: Frédéric Petitjean

Starring: Jean Reno, Sarah Lind, Joe Anderson, David Gyasi

Year: 2019

Runtime: 91 minutes

Country: France, Ukraine


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