It can be dangerous for a movie to refuse to explain itself, for the movie to allow the viewer the time and latitude to work it all out for themselves. First and foremost, that which is shown immediately has to be interesting, and that which is kept for later has to be equally good. If the early stuff isn’t compelling, the viewer may not stick around for when it gets good, and any reveal that is a long time coming and lets down the audience leads to great disappointment.
Written and directed by Frédéric Petitjean, “Cold Blood” manages the balancing act with aplomb. Revealing too much about the movie would be a sin, but this tale stars Jean Reno as a hitman who, following a kill, is living in a remote portion of Washington State. He ends up taking in a woman (Sarah Lind) who has been in a snowmobile accident. Naturally, there are a couple of cops (Joe Anderson and Ihor Ciszkewycz) trying to work out a murder, and things start to intersect in interesting ways.
It is a little odd, perhaps, to call a 91 minute movie a “slow burn,” but the best thing “Cold Blood” has going for it is the audience’s knowledge that there is more happening than meets the eye without the film rushing to divulge those secrets. Reno is, as is regularly the case, wonderfully stoic in his performance as this ex-hitman, Henry. He is harsh with Lind’s Melody even as he takes care of her, and the audience is left to wonder why – is he just a loner, is he scared for her, is he scared of her, is it something else entirely? As the movie shifts back and forth between the isolated house and the detectives running down their case, the audience knows exactly how they connect, but excitedly anticipates the detectives working that out for themselves.
Whatever it may show of the officers of the law, the heart of this story is the relationship between Henry and Melody, and both Lind and Reno portray it beautifully. There is a harshness to their back and forth, even when Melody is injured and weak, that keeps us invested even when the details are murky.
“Cold Blood” is a raw movie, but not one without style. Consequently, when we witness an early kill by Henry, it is done with technological precision in a swanky environment. Later, however, the removal of wood branches from a wound is a bloody, painful, affair in the sparsely decorated cabin. In both instances, Petitjean captures exactly what he needs and not more. It isn’t gruesome for the sake of gruesomeness, in fact, the camera doesn’t show some graphic elements it could. There is blood and there is pain, but not more than that.
These depictions, then, are just like the rest of the film – they offer up enough to tell the audience what is happening, to get the audience involved, but don’t go into them in a way that would make them overly explicit. Petitjean lets the audience work it all out for themselves, understand for themselves. It is a “less is more” ethos and it works.
Releasing this week in select theaters and on demand, “Cold Blood” is a great palate cleanser for those who like tales of crime and feel bogged down by summer’s gluttonous fare.
photo credit: Screen Media Films