Cold Hell (Die Hölle) | Stefan Ruzowitzky | January 19th, 2017 (Germany)
A serial killer is stalking women in Vienna. Cab driver Ozge Dogruol (a fierce Violetta Schurawlow) works late nights driving around the sordid and genuinely misogynistic men that reside in town. One night, a woman is killed in the building next to Ozge’s. She, unfortunately, witnesses the killer disposing of a body, and the killer sees Ozge watching. Thus begins a thrilling and emotional journey of Ozge trying to outlive and outwit this murderer.
Cold Hell is a tight and lean thriller that works on almost every level. Violetta Schurawlow plays Ozge with a reserved intensity. She hardly ever smiles and is not one to crack a joke. In her downtime, she trains as an MMA fighter, which ultimately means bad news for anyone who decides to cross her. An early scene shows Ozge taking on two men who refuse to get out of her cab’s path. Later on in the film, we learn more about Ozge’s past, and why she feels so strongly about protecting herself and not letting herself become helpless.
Once she realizes that the killer has probably seen her face, she goes on the defensive. She leaves her home to stay with her cousin. Once the killer starts stalking her own family, Ozge starts to go on the offensive. During the investigation, she has a few encounters with a Vienna police officer Christian Steiner (Tobias Moretti). Together, they try to put the pieces together in order to identify a suspect before more young women are brutally murdered.
Cold Hell is a fun ride, mainly because its characters are so relatable. Ozge is dealing with her own past abuses at the hand of her father. Christian is dealing with taking care of his older father who has dementia. The family drama actually enhances the fight scenes and car chases because we actually come to care about these people. It helps that the action scenes are exhilarating and wonderfully shot. Director Stefan Ruzowitzky does a great job balancing the action with the character work.
Of course, with Ozge being a cab driver, we get a few car chase sequences that are highly inventive and a blast to watch. There’s also a great foot chase through the Vienna subway system. Ozge is on the trail of the killer, which results in one of the funnier moments of the film, when she goes absolutely bonkers on the man responsible for the murders. The cat and mouse game in Cold Hell is truly interesting, especially when the hunter becomes the hunted.
There is a romantic subplot between Ozge and Christian that didn’t really work for me, but it’s just a minor complaint in an otherwise superb action thriller. I just had issues with the age difference between the two characters who fall for each other. There are moments of levity with Christian’s confused father, which provide some needed laughs to the story. It’s a fairly straightforward thriller, but it was clearly made with care, and it shows.
Vienna looks gorgeous yet grimy here. There are shady characters waiting around every corner, which gives the film an air of dread and uncertainty in many scenes. The acting is also pretty great here. I can’t say good enough things about Violetta Schurawlow. She only speaks when she needs to, but she says more with her eyes and her body language. When she is finally able to let loose, she is a powerhouse. I really look forward to seeing what she does next. She has “next female action star” written all over.
Cold Hell was a welcome surprise at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival. The audience seemed reserved at first, but with every passing moment, you could feel the energy change in the theater. By the end, people were cheering for Ozge and the hard-hitting vengeance against her stalker. It’s entertaining as hell, and I enjoyed every second of it. Definitely check this one out if you get a chance when it hits Shudder next year, along with Mayhem. It’s one of the better foreign thrillers I’ve seen in a long time.