A Cold Day in Hell (2011)

PG-13   |    |  Western


A Cold Day in Hell (2011) Poster

Sierra Nevada Mountains, 1887: William Drayton, once a crack sharpshooter in the Civil War, has lost his wife and home. He has ascended to the high country, wanting never to be heard from again.


2/10
443

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User Reviews


16 June 2011 | sajpratt-82-265277
1
| A tragic waste
I love Westerns, so when I saw that a recent film release had Michael Madsen in the lead role of one, I was excited.

Sometimes there are low budget films in which a budding director's talents can be seen and appreciated. Such directors need encouragement and guidance, and when they get it, we are often rewarded with truly inspired film making.

There are also people who, by some miracle or fortune of birth or happenstance get to produce, write and direct a movie, but who we hope will try another occupation for their own sake (and ours).

Try as I might, I could find no scene that wasn't victimized by poor camera angles, horrible writing, and just plain bad acting. We can forgive the cheesy sets and amateurish sound editing -- these are the first things to suffer in low budget films. But the Director Forbes (who is also the DOP) handles the camera like a news reporter (apparently there was only one camera in use, so it is doubly important to use it well, have a longer shot list and apply more energy to filming each shot), with strait-on-face closeups that make you expect a journalist to pop up with microphone in hand. This indicates an impoverished shot list and subsequently is just plain agonizing to sit through.

There is evidence that some of the unknown actors have talent, but the moments one might see this are rare, and they are often victims of a shot that sidelines them to favor the lead or some burdensome, unnecessary background ambiance -- and lack of directing talent has these supporting actors actually diminishing the lead's scenes, rather than actually supporting them. So, as a result, we don't know if Forbes was just too timid to support aggressive retakes and make manifest what might have been a more creative shot list, or he didn't buy enough camera time, or he's just lazy and uninspired.

About 30 minutes into the film, we find ourselves begging Madsen to pull the thing out of it's hole with sheer force of personality, but no dice. If someone told me Madsen was ordered to do this film as some sort of community service penance, I'd be willing to believe them. Still, with such horrific writing, he sometimes manages to deliver his lines as well as any decent actor could, given the awful material he had to work with.

We must heap responsibility on a director for a film's worthiness, because even a director that has been given a horrible script can make at least some of it shine if he/she is talented enough. That's not the case here with Forbes, however, since he is also one of the writers -- making this appear to be exactly what it is -- a vanity project by someone who got/had some money and wanted to do a movie (he also is a producer, writer, DOP, editor and songwriter for the film). What fun! In short, this is a dreadful, annoyingly bad film made by One-Man-Band Forbes who appears to be not so talented in any one of the roles he's assumed here -- even his tedious, predictable soundtrack seems to be garage-band inspired and is consequently weirdly out-of-place. My advice to the director is to attend film school from year one if he insists on pursuing a career as a film maker.

I've vigorously thrown this movie into my "Tragic Waste of Time, Energy, and Money But At Least The Crew Got Paid" file.

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