I’m torn in what to think about In Cold Blood. On one hand, it’s a smart thriller that gives a taste of authenticity, being that it is based off a true story. The film was shot in the real locations the murder took place and it makes good use of black-and-white photography to give off a sense of realism. On the other hand, the pace of the film was excruciating slow. Except for the final half hour of the film, I was twitching non stop in my seat and every once in awhile, I caught my eyes drooping. A very good story to tell, but I wonder if the execution of the film was properly done.
Anyhow, this thriller received unanimous praise for its authentic storytelling and how this film could have been passed off as a documentary. The film is based of a murder of a family that took place in a rural Kansas town in the early 1960’s. The film is told almost exactly as the real murder went down. The black and white camera work was a good idea because it adds a realistic feeling to the film. The house where the murder took place was actually used to replicate the murder scenes for the film. Even people who were associated with the murders such as neighbors, friends, etc were played by themselves and I thought it was really cool. The performances from everyone came across as natural thus transforming their characters to a near life-like state.
This film is about a pair of ex-cons named Perry Smith (Robert Blake) and Dick Hickock (Scott Wilson) who are meeting in Kansas, thus breaking the terms of their parole. They plan a robbery based on information from a former cellmate of Dick’s in regards of ten thousand dollars worth of cash. Once they robbed the cash, they plan on moving down to Mexico to escape from the law enforcement. However, things don’t go as planned. They end up killing all four members of the Clutter family only coming away with a measly 43 dollars in cash. Now they are truly on the run from the law. But if Detective Alvin Dewey (John Forsythe) has a say, Perry and Dick will find their way at the end of hangman’s noose before all is said and done.
The film is a very small film and the cast is near unrecognizable (However, some of you might recognize Scott Wilson who played Herschel in the popular The Walking Dead series). Despite the relative unfamiliar faces, the performances come across as natural. It’s good the film does not feature any star power because it would have undermined what director Richard Brooks was trying to do. He was trying to recreate the events that happened as real as he could and having big name stars would not have helped his cause. I really enjoyed these performances. Robert Blake performed Perry very well. Perry was the more sensitive character but he can be violent. Dick, played wonderfully by Scott Wilson is more of the manipulator, the man who gen get people to bend to his will. He is also a dreamer, as he dreams for money and escape from America. The two actors had great chemistry with each other, which added on to the natural tone of the characters.
This film is not for everybody. It was certainly made very well. I had a huge problem involving the pace of the film. It seemed to move only at a snail’s pace especially during the second act. The film also has a sense of trickery to it, which may tick some people off. The first minutes of the film shows the first half of the murder before it dwindles to the next act. I started wondering if we were ever going to see the second half of the murder, when it suddenly happened towards the end. Those scenes were hard to watch, but they were undoubtedly powerful. The beginning and the end of the film are the best sections of the movie. The murder act itself and the aftermath/sentence of the two men were two scenes that were well-done. Also, I had mixed feeling about the score composed by Quincy Jones. On one hand, the score itself was great and is often thrilling. But on the other hand, the music is what you would hear in a Hollywood horror film and that’s exactly the opposite of what Brooks was trying to do-not to Hollywoodize his film. Personally, I accepted the use of the music after much thing but just barely.
The film does provide some themes to ponder about. The two guys are from different cultures and backgrounds, but they were attracted to each for the same goal. To rob money. The film also shows how emotion goes into the thinking. Because of the result of getting 43 dollars, it became an unfortunate turn of events for the Clutter family who were about to lose their lives due to bad information. The film is eerie, sad, and sometimes quite boring. This story was actually researched by Truman Capote and this research was turned into a screenplay by Richard Brooks. The screenplay was a very well-written one at least.
Overall, I generally liked In Cold Blood although I’m not over the moon about it as other critics are. I loved the authentic tone of the film and the performances are very natural. They bring Brook’s words to life as if they were their own words. But the film is very slow, and I found the second act to be painful to sit through. But there is no denying how effective the film is and the payoff is very powerful. I would recommend this film, but be prepared for a movie that takes its time to tell the story.
My Grade: B-