Case Number 21716: Small Claims Court


Lionsgate // 2011 // 96 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 7th, 2011

The Charge

What is: "On what day will Michael Madsen say no to a paycheck?"

The Case

Madsen is all over the cover of this film and I can't say I can blame the producers for proclaiming his participation. Sure, he's been relegated to the pits of straight-to-DVD filmmaking, but he still has an impressive pedigree and, at the very least, is a recognizable face. If I had made a low-budget home movie and I convinced Michael Madsen to be in it, I'd be jacked, too.

A Cold Day in Hell is a micro-budget production -- or at least it looks like one. Apparently, it had a budget of $1,500,000, which is stunning to me. This film looks like it was shot in someone's backyard with video equipment from the local high school's A/V club.

First, the plot: a former Civil War bad-ass named William Drayton (Jim Hilton, All Hell Broke Loose) has found himself reluctantly dragged into a town's fight against a ruthless banker. While he helps the yokels gear up for a full-on assault on The Man, a U.S. Marshal (Madsen, Reservoir Dogs) has infiltrated the criminal army to wreak some of his own havoc.

Standard-issue Western stuff, of which I have no issue. Westerns are appealing because of their simplicity, the oft-black-and-white nature of the stories. I'm not looking for nuance; just give me some good guys blasting away at bad guys with gigantic revolvers.

What dumps A Cold Day in Hell is the application of these time-honored storytelling techniques. It's amateur hour the whole way through, from the hammy acting and unconvincing gunplay to its low-grade video stock. The entire enterprise just has this "Mickey Mouse" feel to it and no matter how many alumni from Reservoir Dogs you can convince to show up in your movie, that's just not going to be enough.

Speaking of which: Madsen is not the star of this film. He's a bigger name than "Jim Hilton," but that's the only reason why he's layered all over the disc case.

A simple DVD from Lionsgate: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital, a still gallery and a director's commentary.

The Verdict

Hogtie this varmint.

Review content copyright © 2011 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 50

Perp Profile
Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)

* English (SDH)
* Spanish

Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary
* Image Gallery

* IMDb