Cold Weather is a rarity in modern cinema. Mysteries and thrillers today rely on artificial plots that are often times implausible. Director Aaron Katz has crafted a suspenseful mystery where there are no guns, explosions, sex, or other elements of exploitation or insincerity. What we have here is an honest film noir that is authentic and engaging, with characters that are genuine and frank.
Doug (Cris Lankenau), with a penchant for Sherlock Holmes novels and an unfinished forensic science degree, has moved to Portland to love with his sister Gail (Trieste Kelly Dunn). He gets a job at an ice factory and befriends Carlos (Raul Castillo), who in-turn becomes infatuated with Doug’s ex-girlfriend, Rachel (Robyn Rikoon), who is visiting from Chicago. When Carlos becomes concerned about Rachel’s disappearance, Carlos taps Doug and his investigative talent to help find her.
There is something rather charming about Cold Weather. Perhaps it is suspenseful and thrilling without the artificiality that other films rely on. The film takes its sweet time getting things started, taking nearly forty minutes before the central conflict arises. Essentially, this extended first act allows us to see the intimacy of Doug’s relationships with his sister, ex-girlfriend, and his new friendship with Carlos. This character building gives us a deeper interest in Doug and his environment.
When Carlos, who does have common sense and would not be suspicious without reason, realizes that Rachel’s odd behavior and disappearance is questionable, he has to try hard to convince Doug that something is a miss. When he finally realizes that something strange has happened, he purchases a cheap pipe in order to fill the Sherlock Holmes persona, only to find that it does not help him muse about the mystery.
Doug is a reputable character portrayed perfectly by actor Cris Lankenua, who lets Doug’s arms dangle carelessly as he walks. He has an intense interest in Sherlock Holmes, and corrects the myths of detective’s persona in popular culture. But Doug is also rather average looking, and presents himself casually. He is launched into a mystery that happens to require the talents that he has accquired and uses the common sense and ground-level.
Cold Weather does not use the over-wrought CSI tactics where everything is a clue or can be zoomed-in and enhanced. Doug specifically notes that he must use common sense, intelligence, and an acute attention to detail to spot clues and take them to the next lead. The film constantly kicks tired tropes such as buddy cop flicks, and consistently stays the course of a telling mystery that refuses to fall into conventions.
Director Aaron Katz, who has directed some of the central Mumblecore films, has found maturity with Cold Weather. There is a New Hollywood sentiment and quality in this film that is rarely seen in these days and times. The story and style has a plausibility to it, never once deviating from mild-mannered, common sense grace. The camera shifts from long, static shots to hand-held camera, always keeping a certain distance from Doug, of which, the camera never leaves his side.
Cold Weather may be boring for most, especially since mainstream films have relied on artifical explosions, sex, and violence. But Cold Weather excels because it bucks those elements and relies on solid story-telling, exceptional character development, and precise cinematography to craft a modern film noir that should be admired for its ability to resist the urge of falling into said genre conventions.
Currently available on Netflix Instant.