Stefan Ruzowitzky’s Cold Hell

German cinema is off the hook if this one is any indication. Like some bizarre infusion of Giallo, Transporter style action and quirky family dramedy, this is billed as ‘Cold Hell’ on Shudder where I found it but it looks like the original German title translates to simply ‘The Hell.’ That has a specific meaning relating to the modus operandi of a very, very nasty serial killer who is targeting prostitutes in Vienna. Our protagonist is sullen, haunted Ozgë (Violetta Schurawlow), a Turkish cab driver who moonlights as a kick-boxer and frequent babysitter for her wayward cousin who is stuck in a cataclysmic marriage. One night she witnesses a mysterious Muslim assailant (Sammy Sheik) ruthlessly slaughter a girl in the flat across the street, he pegs her as a witness and they embark on a frenzied pursuit all over the city. I’m not sure if this was the filmmaker’s choice of if Europe is just a little crassly behind the times but there’s a harsh attitude towards women, every other person Ozgë runs into is a profane asshole, and the killer himself is a freaky religious fanatic who thinks he’s sending sinful whores to hell on his own watch, but I suppose he’s allowed to be written that way because he is of course the villain. Ozgë develops a relationship with an extremely stressed out police detective (Tobias Moretti) who seems at first to have the same shitty attitude towards her as everyone else but later we get a diamond in the rough reveal and he turns out to be quite different, quite kind beneath his gruffness and I enjoyed their arc together quite well. This is an amalgamation of sorts, blending different elements but like not blending them seamlessly, it’s very clearly a genre patchwork quilt, in a fun sort of way. There are horror vibes early on that feel distinctly like an Argento or something, then it veers hard left into action movie territory garnished with some oddball eccentricities. Ozgë is such a terrific character, a woman of few words but tons of action. She uses her kickboxing skills to get her out of tight situations, lays some bloody beatdowns on the killer and all the while she’s carrying around the toddler daughter of her murdered cousin. The cop and her form a sort of strange bond, he’s looking after his dad who has Alzheimer’s so they’re both caring for someone vulnerable while trying to catch this gnarly killer and I found myself swept up in both their relationship and collective situation. It’s a scrappy flick and certainly not the greatest thing out there but I was entertained, loved the characters and had a good time with this story.

-Nate Hill

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