According to the publicity notes, the decision to film the French director Frédéric Petitjean’s “Cold Blood” in English was a no-brainer. Audiences might disagree.
Yet the general oddness of this snowbound, stagnant thriller isn’t limited to tone-deaf conversations and a United Nations of accents at odds with the Pacific Northwest setting (played primarily by Ukraine). There’s a drained-looking Jean Reno as a grizzled hit man, hiding out in a remote mountain cabin and seemingly too tired to enunciate. There’s an inscrutable Sarah Lind as the mysterious woman who wipes out, seriously wounded, on his doorstep after a snowmobile accident. And there’s a depressed cop (Joe Anderson) fiddling about on the fringes with a cold case that we suspect will eventually yield a clue to the hit man-hottie dynamic playing out in that cabin.
At this point, any hint would be welcome, considering the Delphic nature of the cabin-dwellers’ exchanges.
“Is it necessary for a mountaineer to be so serious when he chops wood?,” the woman asks her stoic host while the soundtrack pounds with the drumbeat promise of thrills that never materialize. But if Petitjean’s dialogue is problematic, its delivery is no less so: at times, the discord between a character’s words and lip movements suggests that some line readings had to be dubbed.
All of which leaves a lot of heavy lifting for the cinematographer, Thierry Arbogast, whose considerable talents go some way toward manufacturing a tension that the script lacks. The blinding-white fluency of the snowmobile crash in the film’s opening is an excellent example; but viewers are more likely to identify with the cop’s solitary goldfish, gazing out at a world that’s both familiar and incomprehensible.
Not rated. In French and English, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 31 minutes.
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