Jason Lapeyre‘s Cold Blooded is only his second feature film, but it’s already obvious that he’s a director to watch. The film has a terrific trailer that gives hints at the goodness within; it doesn’t spoil anything but it does leave you wanting more. Cold Blooded is definitely more than your average indie thriller.
Visually, Cold Blooded is stunning, all sharp angles, doorways, windows, and floor tiles. It’s precise and as befitting the film’s name, cold and clinical. The lighting is also superb, shifting from greens and blues to greys throughout, all reflecting off of and being absorbed by the sterile setting of a hospital.
Cinematographer Alwyn Kumst has a long list of TV projects on his resume and at times, Cold Blooded has the feel of a great 1970s TV movie. His framing is wonderfully inventive, from the opening stills that look like crime scene photos to the scene where cop Frances Jane talks to wounded criminal Eddie Cordero while she’s in the hallway and he’s in his room looks like a split screen effect, but it’s not. The effect is breathtaking.
As for special effects, Cold Blooded uses them sparingly but brilliantly. There are a few scenes of gore that are masterfully realized and shocking in the context of the low-key yet consistent tension in the film. The effects crew is headed by Paul Jones, another guy with a long resume in TV, and he truly puts the practical into practical effects. I cannot remember another recent indie film with such superb usage of believable, non-CGI effects.
Also believable are the performances. As Frances Jane, Zoie Palmer (who you may recognize from Lost Girl) has serious charisma, convincing us that she is equal parts steely reserve, bravado, integrity, doubt, and panic. Her chemistry with Ryan Robbins—who looks like a cousin of Michael Fassbender—is believable and thankfully does not veer into ridiculous romantic territory the way many other bigger budget mainstream thrillers do. Robbins is great as Cordero: a charming (but not too charming) criminal, who isn’t a bad guy even though he’s a bad guy. And I loved Sergio Di Zio (Flashpoint) as the neurotic criminal who just wants to get back to his wife.
The dialogue—also written by Lapeyre—is straightforward and convincing and although it veers into cliché at times, it’s not the kind of cliché that induces groans. The premise of the film—cop teams with criminal to evade death—is about as clichéd as they come, but by keeping everything on a small scale, Lapeyre and his cast and crew make it work
Another big difference between Cold Blooded and your average cops and robbers thriller is the music. It’s practically non-existent; there are no hokey bits wielding undue influence on your emotions. The score, composed by Todor Kobakov, seethes right under the surface and gets under your skin when it needs to without overpowering the events unfolding onscreen.
Cold Blooded is not a bloated, high-octane blockbuster. The pacing is deliberate and leisurely at times, yet taut and engrossing at others. Cold Blooded breathes both fresh life and a retro feel into the thriller genre.
Cold Blooded will screen at Fantastic Fest on Saturday, August 22 and Monday, September 24.