Cold Blooded (1995): Wolodaesky Crime Film Starring Jason Priestly and Robert Loggia

A dark comedy directed by TV’s popular Simpsons writer M. Wallace Wolodarsky, and starring Jason Priestly as an unwilling mob hitman, Cold Blooded world-premiered at the Sundance Film Fest in the Dramatic Competition series.

Trying to morph from TV to the big screen, Priestly gives a so-so performance as Cosmo, a passive nerd who lives in the basement of a retirement community home, seemingly happy to run numbers there. Things change, however, when his boss (Robert Loggia) “promotes” him to gun-for-hire, and pairs him with Steve (Peter Riegert), an assassin-mentor (and sort of surrogate father), who instructs him of how to become a skillful professional.

To that extent, Cosmo takes up yoga to deal with the quilt from killing people, but then reveals unwanted emotions, when he falls for his yoga instructor Jasmine (Kimberly Williams), a femme struggling through a troubled, abusive relationship.  Predictably, Cosmo’s new career causes some unanticipated complications for Jasmine as well as all the others around him.

“Guns don’t kill people–we kill people,” Steve tells Cosmo. Later, he confesses, “I have nightmare about my victims begging and screaming, but that’s part of the job.”  However, for the most part the noirish humor feels forced when imposed on the overly verbose tale, and deliberate pacing doesn’t helm matter, either.

At one point, Cosmo even seeks romantic advice from his victims.  Conveniently, Cosmo and Steve get away with murder, without any witness in sight.

Owing its entire existence to Tarantino’s work (“Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction”) “Cold Blooded” is a movie that revolves around a nice-enough premise, but it’s basically an underdeveloped tale based on a comic gimmick; it would have made a nice half an hour short.

Priestly strains to find the right tone to play the handsome, emotionally blank, none-too-bright guy.  A loser whose life is unexamined, Cosmo surmounts his moral ambivalence to his new career by discovering that he’s a good shot.  Secondary cast is better. Riegert as the genial mentor, Janeane Garofalo and Michael J. Fox add color with their quirky cameos.

Going out of its way to be cool and hip, “Cold Blooded” is too low key, lethargic, and deliberately paced for its own good, probably a reflection of the filmmakers’ lack of experience.