COLD BLOOD (LA MEMOIRE DU SANG)

Producer: Corinne Benichou, Florence Moos, Olais Barco and Oleg German
Director: Frederic Petitjean
Writer: Frederic Petitjean
Stars: Jean Reno, Sara Lind, Joe Anderson, David Gyasi, Ihor Cizkewycz and Francois Guetary
Studio: Screen Media Films

D-

In his earlier days Jean Reno played hardboiled hit-men with the best of them (remember 1994’s “The Professional”?), but at seventy he just seems tired. Of course, it’s doubtful that any actor, whatever his age, could have invigorated “Cold Blood,” also called “Cold Blood Legacy,” an utterly dismal attempt at a convoluted action thriller peopled by dull-witted characters doing idiotic things and played by mediocre actors spouting ludicrous dialogue. Its only virtue lies in Thierry Arbogast’s widescreen images of the snowy forests where much of the story is set.

The movie begins with a sequence showing Henry (Reno) killing a not-so-well protected businessman in the sauna of an exclusive club in New York City, casually departing the skyscraper where it’s located, collecting his fee from a terminal locker, and leaving town. The next thing we know, he’s at his remote hideaway deep in the woods of Washington State, characteristically glum but apparently safe in his solitude.

Meanwhile other plot threads are introduced. One centers on a couple of cops who are investigating the murder; the victim happens to have been from Washington State. Davies (François Guétary) is the old guy preparing to move on to greener pastures, while Kappa (Joe Anderson) is his cynical, sharp-tongued younger partner, constantly mouthing comments that come across like rejected lines from a bad police TV series.

Simultaneously we follow a grim young woman (Sarah Lind) who rents a snowmobile and drives it recklessly into the forest. She crashes and, bloody and injured, crawls away from the debris, eventually getting within sight of Henry’s cabin. She’s being followed, we learn, by stoic Malcolm (David Gyasi), who has an intimidating presence as he questions witnesses while trailing her.

Most of the running-time follows Henry’s efforts to tend to the girl’s wounds, often painfully mending her broken bones. He’s insistent that she heal quickly enough to leave before the snow melts and she won’t be able to get through the slush and water that will result. Malcolm plods along after her.

Kappa doggedly continues his investigation, concentrating on trying to locate Charley, the heir to the murdered man. But he won’t have much luck until he inveigles an interview with the victim’s wife (Ihor Ciskewycz), who’s long been institutionalized with Alzheimer’s but gives him an important piece of information nonetheless.

Writer-director Frédéric Petitjean apparently believes that this revelation will come as a great shock to viewers, but here as elsewhere he’s mistaken. It’s hard to imagine that anybody won’t have foreseen the supposed surprise. The predictability is compounded by the fact that the performances by Anderson and Lind are so poor. Reno can get by simply on his bearlike presence and the affection recollection of his past work inevitably generates, but his younger co-stars sink under the weight of the banal dialogue, the pedestrian direction and their own innate amateurishness. Among the others Guétary comes off best merely because he underplays with a tongue=in-cheek smile, signaling that he recognizes the mediocrity of the material he’s dealing with, and Ciskewycz maintains her dignity as much as can be expected given the circumstances. Most of the actors in lesser roles just blunder about, hobbled not only by Petitjean’s ineptitude but editing that appears lackadaisical at best.

It’s hard to imagine that anyone will be satisfied by the messy conclusion, in which Reno and Gyasi engage in one of the sloppiest wilderness confrontations in memory before Anderson blunders onto the scene. And everybody will surely become annoyed by Xavier Berthelot’s score, which repeatedly works itself up to a dither in a way that suggests something major is about to happen, then simply returns to a boring drone when nothing does.

One can, of course, just wallow in the snowy vistas Arbogast shoots, often from helicopters high above, but even they get tedious after awhile. (Though the setting is the Pacific Northwest, the picture was mostly filmed in Ukraine.) Otherwise “Cold Blood” lacks imagination, coherence, and basic technical proficiency; Henry should really have put it out of its misery.