Not so much reprising a famed role as he is tiredly schlepping it back up onscreen, Jean Reno once again plays a hitman — and one who really should retire by now — in French director Frédéric Petitjean’s generic English-language thriller, Cold Blood Legacy.
Well-shot (by Luc Besson regular Thierry Arbogast) but otherwise entirely forgettable, this tale of a hired gun crossing paths with a female fugitive is a dumbed and watered-down version of better, similar movies Reno has done before, especially Besson favorites like La Femme Nikita and Leon: The Professional. Released theatrically by Paramount in France, where the 70-year-old star can still draw a marginal crowd, this is the kind of B-grade effort that will pop up in the SVOD algorithm of anyone who likes their action flicks served cold and without much flavor.
Per the closing credits, the film was made in the Ukraine, New York and Canada, which is something immediately evident from the mishmash of accents, locations and off-base dialogue peppering a story (written by Petitjean) that works best when none of the characters open their mouths. In fact, the dialogue is so bad in places that you just wish the film were silent. (Example involving two detectives: “Do you have that in NY?” “What?” “Netflix.” “Believe me man, in NY homicide you don’t need Netflix.”)
What works a tad better is a breathtaking snow-covered setting that’s meant to be the Pacific Northwest but was actually filmed in Ukraine’s Carpathian Mountains. It’s there that Henry (Reno), a tight-lipped professional killer who’s hiding out in a cabin and reading — you guessed it — Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, finds his inner peace interrupted by the arrival of Charly (Sarah Lind), a woman who gets in a nasty snowmobile accident during the film’s high-octane opening.
As Henry slowly nurses Charly back to health, flashbacks reveal how their encounter may not be a complete coincidence, especially when we find out that the former was involved in the assassination of a billionaire executive with only one heir to his empire. That it takes a grimy cop, Kappa (Joe Anderson), who was transferred in from New York, pretty much the entire film to make connections between the main characters that the viewer does in about five seconds, says a lot about Petitjean’s estimation of both the NYPD’s policing abilities and the intelligence of his own audience.
There are plenty of other things that don’t work here, including the fact that several speaking roles were obviously dubbed, and not very well at that, while others are performed with inflections that are anything but colloquial American. (This includes, of course, Reno’s character — a man of few words who says them all in his usual French drawl, although we never learn what exactly he’s doing living up alone in rural Washington.)
The result is a film that’s as nonsensical as it is blandly put together, with Arbogast’s immersive widescreen photography probably the only thing making it even semi-watchable, especially when used to capture scenes of pure wordless action. These include a highlight in the opening reel, shot in a sauna filled with steam and illuminated in blue-red monochrome, where a fatigued-looking Reno pulls off a hit without even standing up.
Production companies: Eight 35, Eastwest Productions, Seven 52
Cast: Jean Reno, Sara Lind, Joe Anderson, David Gyasi, Ihor Cizkewycz, Francois Guetary
Director-screenwriter: Frédéric Petitjean
Producers: Corinne Benichou, Florence Moos, Olais Barco, Oleg German
Director of photography: Thierry Arbogast
Composer: Xavier Berthelot
Casting director: Kelly Valentine Hendry
Sales: Goldcrest Films International