Produced by Stefan Arndt,
Thomas Peter Friedl, Helmut Grasser
Directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky
Written by Martin Ambrosch
Starring: Violetta Schurawlow, Tobias Moretti ,
Sammy Sheik, Friedrich von Thun,
Robert Palfrader, Murathan Muslu
Ozge Dogruol is your typical Turkish immigrant taxi driver in Vienna; except that she is also an emotionally shut-down kick-boxer with anger management issues. So, when she sees her neighbor’s dead and mutilated body and then sees the killer in shadows staring at her she knows she’s in for a lot of trouble.
But lucky for us she’s no damsel in distress waiting to be rescued.
What follows is a story of intense action and a surprising amount of character development from director Stefan Ruzowitzky, who won the 2008 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for the World War II movie The Counterfeiters.
Cold Hell stars Violetta Schurawlow as Ozge the Turkish born Austrian cab driver that takes no shit from anyone. Her character could be compared to Girl With the Dragon Tattoo‘s Lisbeth Salander but that would mainly be because they are both strong female characters. Ozge has her own demons and keeps her emotions locked down until she’s kicking some guy’s ass because he’s pushed her too far.
The story follows Ozge in the aftermath of grisly discovery knowing the killer could come for her. The suspense is a slow burn as Ozge tries to find a place to hide from the killer. Through this we’re introduced to all the seeds of why she is so emotionally shut down; family issues, issues with the owner of the Thai-boxing gym she goes to; issues with her cousin Ranya who is cheating on her husband, Ozge’s boss. Lending her jacket to Ranya marks her as the next victim and finally gets the police to take Ozge seriously.
The mix of action scenes where the killer, played by Sammy Sheik who has had recurring roles in NCIS: Los Angeles and Homeland, comes close to getting Ozge and scenes where she is running and hiding from the killer keep the suspense high but also give the script time to reveal the inner workings of Ozge. By the end of the film you understand her and why this fight is not one she will give up on.
The police detective Christian Steiner, Austrian actor Tobias Moretti, eventually comes to Ozge’s aid. Seeing his interaction with his nearly senile father helps Ozge open up enough to help with information about the killer. She helps Steiner connect the mutilations to the punishments from a special place in Islamic Hell where cold is the destroying force instead of fire. And her knowledge of the city helps pinpoint the killer.
The film made me think of Christian-based horror films like Seven or Red State but only in that this was an Islamic religious extremist killer stalking others of the same faith. Religion plays a role in justifying the actions of the killer to himself but most of the other characters don’t wear their religion on their sleeve.
Once there is a lead on where the killer is located, the third act is non-stop action full of reversals for the killer, Steiner, and Ozge that keeps you on the edge of your seat and doesn’t disappoint with every turn. This is one of the best and smartest suspense, horror films I’ve seen in a while.
Online streaming channel Shudder has exclusive rights to Cold Hell and it’s worth it to sign up to see this film.