Friday, April 26, 2013

On DVD/Blu-ray: COLD PREY II (2013) and PAWN (2013)

(Norway - 2008; 2013 US release)

A huge box office hit when released in its native Norway and the rest of Europe in 2006, COLD PREY (Norwegian title: FRITT VILT) took three years to get a straight-to-DVD release in the US.  The inevitable COLD PREY II has finally arrived on DVD in the US, a belated five years after its European theatrical run.  The first film had five snowboarders on a trip to the Jotunheimen region of southern Norway finding shelter at an abandoned resort where they're pursued by a relentless killing machine who's basically the Norwegian cousin of Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers.  Here, that film's Final Girl, Jannicke (Ingrid Borso Berdal) is found dazed and delirious and holding the dead killer's pickaxe, and transported to a nearby hospital that--of course--is operating with a skeleton crew because it's about to close down for good (helpful hint for slasher film protagonists: if you work in a hospital that's about to close, don't stick around; and when the lights flicker off and then back on, someone will instantly appear directly behind you).  As any fan of classic old-school slasher films like HALLOWEEN II and VISITING HOURS can attest, a nearly-abandoned hospital is an outstanding setting for these types of things, and COLD PREY II is cut from the same cloth.  The hulking killer (Robert Follin), thought dead, simply went into a brief hibernation from the cold.  When the doc in charge (Fridtjov Saheim) idiotically resuscitates him, the bodies start piling up in various gory ways until it's down to Jannicke and other doc Camilla (Marthe Snorresdotter Rovik) for the final showdown. 

There's no real surprises in COLD PREY II and because there's a limited number of people who can get killed, it takes about half of the running time before anything starts happening. But once the killer is on the loose, things pick up considerably, and director Mats Stenberg (awesomely-monikered COLD PREY director Roar Uthaug co-produced and has a story credit) offers some impressively-constructed chase and kill scenes.  Also helping a lot is a truly badass Berdal staking her claim as a modern-day scream queen with her tough, gritty performance as Jannicke.  Like its predecessor, COLD PREY II brings nothing new to the table and relies too much on characters behaving stupidly, but it does a nice job executing tried-and-true genre staples and doing so with respect and affinity.  You don't need to see it, but doing so isn't a waste of your time.  It proved to be another huge success in Europe, prompting a COLD PREY III in 2010, which, following the time frame of the first two, should hit US shores sometime in 2017.  (Unrated, 90 mins)

(US - 2013)

This thoroughly forgettable thriller opened on a couple of screens four days before its DVD/Blu-ray release and showcases a large cast of recognizable faces in a completely by-the-numbers plot that's so routine that if you listen closely, you can practically hear their sighs of ambivalence.  Ex-con Sean Faris promises his pregnant wife (Nikki Reed) that he'll stay out of trouble, but then he finds himself in the middle of a hostage situation at an all-night diner when a crew of gunmen led by Michael Chiklis barge in to rob the place.  They're really after a hard drive that's being kept in the safe, and it's something that involves the grizzled diner owner (Stephen Lang as Scott Glenn) and the local crime boss (Ronald Guttman), whose villainy is instantly given away by the fact that he's the only person in the greasy spoon wearing an ascot.  The slumming cast also includes Ray Liotta as a mob mystery man, Forest Whitaker and Marton Csokas as on-the-take cops, and Common as the hostage negotiator.  For some reason, Chiklis uses a comically over-the-top Cockney accent that's basically an exaggerated impression of Jason Statham as Ray Winstone as Bob Hoskins, certainly to creatively infuse his character with some texture and depth and not at all an attention-hogging stunt suggested and supported by co-producer Michael Chiklis.  (R, 88 mins)

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