An instant hit on the indie circuit having won critical plaudits at SXSW, Cold Weather is an enjoyable romp through the crime sub-genre of amateur detectives….
An instant hit on the indie circuit having won critical
plaudits at SXSW, Cold Weather is an enjoyable romp through the crime sub-genre
of amateur detectives, most recently retreaded in HBO’s Bored To Death with
which it shares its central concept and the actress Trieste Kelly Dunn, seen
here in a more significant role.
College drop-out Doug (Cris Lankenau) moves back to his
native Portland with no clear future ahead of him other than a desire to make
some quick money and reconnect with his family. A keen reader of detective
fiction, he finds solace in Raymond Chandler and Sherlock Holmes stories, a
passion he goes on to share with Carlos (Raúl Castillo), a fellow co-worker at
the ice factory (“Where did you think the ice in the store comes
from?”) where Doug finds temporary employment.
Events take a surprising twist when Doug’s ex-girlfriend
Rachel (Robyn Rikoon) goes missing, Carlos adamant that nefarious forces are
behind her disappearance. Initially dismissed as the side-effect of gorging on
too much Sherlock Holmes, a subsequent investigation reveals Carlos might in
fact be onto something, luring Doug and his sister Gail (Trieste Kelly Dunn)
irresistibly into the mystery.
It could have been easy for Cold Weather to slide into
irritating contrivance, characters mere archetypes facilitating a narrative
bent on delivering a cheap film noir pastiche. However, in order for the
premise to work, director Aaron Katz spends time with his protagonists before
anything peculiar occurs, recognising the importance to establish them as real
people ill equipped to conduct a proper investigation rather than award them
infinite powers of deduction. Instead, Katz lets them fumble and fail in their
efforts, lending the film a rich, playful naturalism. In this respect, Cold
Weather shares commonalities with Hitchcock’s Rear Window, a similarly
character driven suspense-drama where two ordinary people find themselves
suddenly entwined in a murder mystery, relying on amateur sleuthing skills to
catch the killer. Both films firmly establish their central characters
(including fringe players) at the very beginning and only then proceed to
immerse them in the extraordinary, building up audience investment along the
An impressive demonstration of what can be done with a
smaller budget, Cold Weather is a cinematic treat from start to finish, even if
it does begin to run out of momentum somewhat towards the end. Otherwise,
excellent performances compliment witty dialogue, whilst Katz’s direction
imbues the film with atmosphere and feeling, taking full advantage of
Portland’s rain spattered pavements and abandoned industrial sites, all the
while resisting the urge to explicitly parody and ape the literature and cinema
it so obviously admires.
To borrow a phrase from Carlos, Cold Weather is “the pimp”
and one of the most enjoyable films to be released so far this year.