Review: ‘Cold & Dark’

Elegantly unreadable opening credits announce that "Cold & Dark" places style over substance, even coherence. Glossy action-horror pic about a werewolf-like changeling run amuck in Cornwall's criminal underground demonstrates that helmer Andrew Goth has a commercially viable if derivative flair for fashionable genre posing, but none for storytelling or handling actors.

Elegantly unreadable opening credits announce that “Cold & Dark” places style over substance, even coherence. Glossy action-horror pic about a werewolf-like changeling run amuck in Cornwall’s criminal underground demonstrates, like prior Brit gangster exercise “Everybody Loves Sunshine,” that helmer Andrew Goth has a commercially viable if derivative flair for fashionable genre posing, but none for storytelling or handling actors. Pic is bypassing theatrical for DVD in North America, a pity only because its sleek widescreen look is its best asset.

Sporting the same graphic-novel, vaguely futuristic noir trademarked by “The Crow,” “The Matrix” and “Sin City,” Goth and scenarist Joanne Reay string together a silly and muddled story. Edgy young cop John Dark (Luke Goss), who narrates in strained hard-boiled language, is mentored by enigmatic Mort Shade (Kevin Howarth, perhaps auditioning for the next Vampire Lestat). Their crackdown efforts toward local baddies is both helped and complicated by brutal murders committed by an unidentifiable creature.

Halfway through, Dark realizes this elusive “Grail” is secretly undead Shade himself, who transforms into a superhuman killing force with a CGI-fanged snake thing sprouting from his palm. Shade’s sense of justice soon grows cloudy and his appetite more ravenous.

Despite swift pace and flashy visuals, there’s surprisingly little real action in pic, which is more interested in having leads strike macho-cool poses to the point of self-parody. This is the kind of film in which police look like fashion models, criminals are as cartoonish as Dick Tracy villains, and the dialogue delivery is high sneer. Protagonist, who should be pulling down just enough salary for a bachelor apartment lives in what looks like a $2 million oceanside manse.

Leads look good and maintain a straight face, all one can reasonably expect under the circumstances; support thesps are encouraged to be intense to a sometimes painful, hammy degree.

Messy, familiar and forgettable as it is, “Cold & Dark” isn’t boring. One hopes Goth’s next project, Chow Yun Fat-starring zombie Western “The Wretched,” will finally prove the right match for his facile pop style. Current pic is thoroughly accomplished on tech/design levels, all delivering a decent approximation of the same gritty, nihilistic urban-fantasy environ numerous bigger-budgeted productions have evoked of late.

Cold & Dark

U.K.

Production

A Cold Films-Paradigm Hyde Films co-production in association with South West Film Studios. Produced by Joanne Reay. Executive producers, Michael Gebauer, Michael Whyke, Terrence Yason. Directed by Andrew Goth. Screenplay, Joanne Reay.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Sam McCurdy; editor, Tania Reddin; music, Lauren Yason, Richard Fox; production designer, Simon Bowles; art directors, Karl Probert, Madeleine Swinglehurst; costume designer, Marianne Agertoft; CGI designer, Doug Lentz; hair & makeup, Jacqueline Fowler; FX makeup, Paul Hyett; sound (Dolby Digital), Steve Cook; assistant director, Claire Alderton; casting, Gillian Hawser. Reviewed at Another Hole in the Head Film Festival, San Francisco, June 9, 2005. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 94 MIN.

With

Luke Goss, Kevin Howarth, Matt Lucas, Carly Jane Turnbull, Steven Elder, David Baker, Cassandra Bell, David Gant, Elizabeth Healy, Rhys Moosa, Dan van Husen, James Whale.
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