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rochefort [Celluloid 09.23.12] horror thriller

It's fairly common for debut and low-budget pictures to feature "bottle" stories, wherein most or all of the story takes place within a single environment like a house in the woods or a police station. For his first feature, Director Jason Lapeyre puts the action inside a hospital where a disillusioned cop (Zoie Palmer) is assigned the graveyard shift keeping watch over an injured jewel thief named Cordero (Ryan Robbins), who may be expecting a vengeful visit from some of his criminal associates. While flawed, "Cold Blooded" makes a good case for the idea that, if you really want to distinguish your movie in the vast sea of low- and no-budget first features, you have to be willing to go places the other guys won't.

The setup is a simple one: Palmer's Officer Jane finds herself alone against crime boss Holland (William MacDonald, whose eyes are as cold and dead as a shark's) and his cronies when they come looking for Cordero. Jane and Cordero get in just enough conversation time before the baddies arrive for her to suspect that the charismatic jewel thief may not be guilty of every charge against him, but she's a by-the-book cop and has every intention of making sure he sees a judge. Lapeyre's script makes smart choices from the get-go, doling out just enough backstory for the two leads to keep us interested, and also makes it clear that the point of the story won't necessarily be about any major plot twist, since we can pretty well predict who's who and why they did it. The real surprises, and no I won't spoil them in any detail here, lie in what each character is willing to do in order to win what quickly becomes a hospital-bound game of cat and mouse. As jaded a moviegoer as I sometimes consider myself, a key moment early on had me doing a double-take, and it took a few seconds to process that yes, that just happened.

The downsides admittedly detract, but just a tiny bit. Like I mentioned above, the overarching plot is pretty common, and the opening scene has an overwhelming similarity to a scene in another first feature from a guy named Tarantino. And once the villains arrive, characters travel so much around the maze-like but seemingly empty hospital without waking anybody else up that we can't help but wonder if Cordero is the only patient in the building. What mainly keeps this one a cut above is the chemistry between Jane and Robbin's Cordero.

If you've watched any "Battlestar Galactica" or "Hell on Wheels" then you'll probably recognize actor Robbins immediately; he's done tons of solid character acting for years, and here he really seizes the opportunity to share the lead, and likewise Palmer's portrayal of an unappreciated idealist is nicely understated and believable. And then, of course, there are the bloody wtf moments. Try and track this one down while it's still new so the stray water cooler chat doesn't blow any of the surprises.

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