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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

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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.

THE INTRUDER

Producer: Deon Taylor, Roxanne Avent, Brad Kaplan and Jonathan Schwartz
Director: Deon Taylor
Writer: David Loughery
Stars: Dennis Quaid, Michael Ealy, Meagan Good, Joseph Sikora, Alvina August and Lili Sepe
Studio: Screen Gems

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Dennis Quaid plays the villain in this particularly silly home-invasion thriller, which is about at the level of those persistently goofy made-for-TV network movies that were so numerous back in the sixties and seventies.

The script might have been written on one side of a napkin. A well-to-do San Francisco couple, Scott and Annie Howard (Michael Ealy and Meagan Good), buy a lovely Napa Valley home from widower Charlie Peck (Quaid). Charlie says that he’ll be moving to Florida to live with his daughter, but he hangs around indefinitely, dropping by incessantly to mow the lawn, show the newcomers where they can find the Christmas decorations, protest over a hole being drilled in a wall to install a security camera and so on.

To make matters worse, he drives a wedge between Scott and Annie, whose relationship has previously been shaken by her suspicion that her husband might have been involved with a co-worker. She is more welcoming to the fellow than her husband is.

Truth be told, Quaid, scripter David Loughery, director Deon Taylor, cinematographer Daniel Pearl and composer Geoff Zanelli (who tosses in an explosion of sinister music whenever Charlie goes into one of his moods) go out of their way to make it abundantly clear very early on that Charlie is a dangerous, mentally unstable guy. (He scowls menacingly at— and even imagines doing harm to—a character that might as well have a “Dead Meat” sign hanging on his or her neck at first appearance.) That heavy-handed note is simply sounded over and over again, particularly when Charlie keeps exhibiting his utter love of rifles, practically caressing them whenever they’re shown on screen—which is often. (Scott, by contrast, doesn’t like guns at all.)

You know where all of this is leading—to a big confrontation in the final reel. That includes the unveiling of secrets from Charlie’s past that are meant to be shocking but will have been guessed by virtually every viewer long before they’re revealed, as well as a fact about the house that comes straight out of the horror movie playbook. The ending then panders abjectly to the audience’s basest instincts.

Quaid holds absolutely nothing back here, chewing the scenery to such an extent that you might fear the nails from the floorboards are getting stuck in his gums. (There’s a scene where he’s examining himself with a mirror where his grotesque mugging suggests that could in fact have happened.) He leers, he smirks evilly, he practically spits out his lines. Actually, the actor had what amounts to a rehearsal for the part in an earlier movie, Martin Guigui’s little-seen 2012 horror flick “Beneath the Darkness,” in which he played a wacky widower who stalks a bunch of teenagers who have broken into his house, which also serves as the town mortuary. He was terrible in it, too.

Ealy and Good are both extremely attractive performers, but they’re completely defeated by characters that are as dumb as horror movie conventions demand. That’s especially true of Good, whose Annie takes so long to come to the realization that Charlie’s a rotter that she must have been held back several grades in school. Joseph Sikora and Alvina August are a bit more perceptive as the Howards’ closest friends, but not by much, and their performances are rote. The actors who appear as local townspeople, and Lili Sepe as Charlie’s daughter, all have what amount to walk-ons, as do those who play Scott’s co-workers.

The only positive thing one can say about “The Intruder” is that the Peck house is actually a nice-looking place (credit production designer Andrew Neskorommy and set decorator Ingrid Burgstaller), except for a basement that’s awfully run-down.

This is one of those movies that wants to scare you but is more likely to make you burst out laughing, so awful that it could be considered instant camp. Don’t let it intrude upon your time, unless unintentional humor is what you’re searching for.