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Rated 3 stars
by 279 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Cold Prey
by Adam Hakari

I wonder what serial killer movies did before Seven existed. It's hard to imagine a world where these films didn't have David Fincher's gruesome procedural to rip off and were forced to use their imaginations. These days, crime dramas are replete with bad guys who make real sickos look like underachievers. Now comes Horsemen, which plays out like the culmination of Hollywood's efforts to make the most mediocre thriller in cinema history.

Aidan Breslin (Dennis Quaid) is a walking, talking page ripped right out of the Big Book of Cop Cliches. A grieving widower with a tendency to ignore his kids, Breslin keeps his demons at bay by pouring himself into case after case. One day, a whopper lands in his lap when a woman is found hanging in a ghastly get-up that would make the Saw crew envious. A victim or two later, Breslin deduces that he has not one but rather a team of psychos on his hands, a motley crew fancying  themselves to be a modern-day version of the Bible's Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. These are no ordinary killers, for they intend their campaign of terror to rock humanity to its very foundation in a matter of days. What will happen when their mission is complete remains a mystery, but Breslin is determined to put an end to this unholy crimewave before it happens.

Horsemen carries on that most perplexing of thriller conventions: the killer who spends more time establishing a complex motive and laying out clues for the police than, well, killing people. It seems to me that someone with so much time, energy, and passion would be better served spreading their gospel, say, creaming the competition on a debate team. I jest, since this is all done for the audience's benefit, and, in the cases of Seven and Saw, it's even resulted in a thematic backbone from time to time. The trouble is that Horsemen appears anything but ambitious, hoisting religious overtones upon the story without really thinking them through. It's not stupid, just not willing to let go of its B-grade nature long enough to explore its themes. Horsemen starts strong but ends with a whimper, its ultimate conclusion best explained as the most emo agenda in serial killer history. It's like a gorier version of the Jesse Stone movies, competently constructed but hardly worth anything more than a time killer.

For a relatively modest film that's been sitting on the shelf for a couple years, Horsemen has wrangled quite a bit of talent to make the least out of. A man whose last film was 2003's junkie odyssey Spun, director Jonas Akerlund dials down his style and walks away having blessed Horsemen with a low-key but effectively creepy aura. Meanwhile, Quaid takes on a role he or any other leading man could play in his sleep; he's not terrible at all, but he often lets cliche do the talking instead of placing his own spin on the character. Familiar faces pepper the supporting cast, including Clifton Collins Jr. as Breslin's partner and Paul Dooley as a helpful priest, but they amount to fleeting cameos at best. The other major player here is Zhang Ziyi, whose true nature I dare not reveal. Despite her talents, she's completely wrong for the part. Every character seems afflicted with some form of malaise, to the point that you marvel more at the grisly effects than you care about the people stuck in such deathtraps.

After a brief overseas release, Horsemen is heading straight to DVD on American shores, where its derivative tendencies will be better tolerated. There's a definite market for films like this, which push just enough buttons without coaxing viewers out of the comfort zone Law & Order and CSI have built for them. Horsemen is passable fare, but those looking for another Seven are likely to find their hopes on the chopping block.

MY RATING: ** (out of ****)

(Released by Lionsgate and rated "R" for grisly and disturbing content, some sexual images and language.)

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