Today’s movies don’t lack strong female characters. They’re popping up everywhere in cinema and have been a staple in the horror genre for decades—even if the themes were still misogynistic. COLD HELL, a German thriller, takes a kick-boxing taxi driver and pits her against a brutal murderer who is hunting and killing women. The driver, Özge (Violetta Schurawlow), witnesses a murder in her apartment, becoming the focus of the killer who turns her life upside down.
If anything, COLD HELL is a great premise that misses an opportunity to create a bad-ass female character kicking some murderous, misogynistic butt. The strong, female-driven storyline flounders with the last half hour crawling along due to uneven pacing. The movie falters because it builds a great character and then underutilizes her.
Özge is a takes-no-bull-shit woman, and you want to see her kick ass.
The first hour is enthralling, filled with action, violence, and gorgeous cinematography of pinks and purples. Then the story slows, lumbering toward a deflated climax that feels rushed. The color pallet also changes toward the end to flat and uninteresting tones. At around that hour mark the story turns from a thriller to a drama, killing the movie’s momentum. Özge is a takes-no-bull-shit woman, and you want to see her kick ass. However, such action is barely in the move.
When there is action and violence, it’s well-choreographed, shot and edited. And it’s bloody, but not gratuitously so. There’s an excellent car-chase scene, and you can feel the violence and pain inflicted upon Özge. Tired, winded, and hurt, she stumbles, struggling for stability on legs that want to give up. It feels real, and it’s in these moments of violence and pain where the COLD HELL shines. Every punch, hit, cut and scrape feels real. What’s disappointing is those moments are few and far between for both Özge and the murderer.
Every punch, hit, cut and scrape feels real.
The acting is solid, with no performance standing out from the others. When Özge kicks ass, the pain she inflicts is believable—and she isn’t holding back. The cast of supporting characters big and small delivery wonderful, and believable, performances. One thing the movie does well is show the people in Özge’s life living complicated and messy lives, bringing a sense of realism to the film and its setting, making the premise and violence all the more unsettling. Even the murderer feels too real.
While the movie is about revenge and violence against women, it is nice to see it diverted away from the tired trope of the rape-revenge genre—not that murder women is that far removed from those themes. That’s what makes COLD HELL feel like such a missed chance to do something innovative. It’s still about a woman out for revenge. There’s a compelling female character who can take care of herself. You want more of Özge giving douchey dudes bloody faces, not less.
COLD HELL hits Shudder March 15.
Cold Hell [Review]