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Cold Wallet Review: Immersive Revenge Tale

Three people next to a tree in the film Cold Wallet

Cutter Hodierne’s Cold Wallet is a solid crime thriller equipped with pleasing visuals and unpredictable twists and turns.

Ever since Bitcoin was released in 2009, cryptocurrency has gained significant popularity. Masses of people online claim they became wealthy from the digital currency and could pay off student loans and other debts while investing in lavish cars and homes. However, the currency’s unregulated status has led to many scams. Victims of such fraud have invested thousands in crypto only to be left with the dreaded zero balance in their accounts, with no way of tracking who was behind the scheme or finding a way to get their money back. In Cutter Hodierne’s feature, Cold Wallet, Billy (Raul Castillo), Dom (Tony Cavalero), and Eva (Melonie Diaz) are the victims of a Ponzi scheme after investing their money into Tulip Coin. When the trio uncovers the whereabouts of their scammer, they join forces to take him down. In a nutshell, Cold Wallet is a love letter to all the victims of fraud who wish they could come face to face with their scammer and give them a good talking to.

Right from the get-go, it’s apparent that Cold Wallet isn’t taking itself too seriously, and the film’s subtle humor had me giggling a few times. For example, Billy and Dom meet with Eva to discuss the scam they have been victims of. As the pair pull up in the parking lot, viewers see a GameStop in full view. This is no coincidence and a nod to the short squeeze scandal involving the store’s stock in 2021. This scene reminds us of society’s obsession with finding ways to get rich quickly through investments, even when substantial risk is involved.

As a viewer, you instantly feel for Billy, who desperately wants to improve his financial situation and buy a home so his daughter can visit. He drops 2k on a PS5 that he bought for her with crypto for Christmas and viewers can sense how much joy making her happy brings him. Similarly, you immediately sympathize with Eva and Dom, who have also been scammed out of money, and root for each of them. The three characters, who are all different, complement each other well, and their differing personalities and outlooks keep the narrative entertaining.

Once Billy, Dom, and Eva arrive at their scammer’s house, the suspense vamps up, and things start to get interesting. What I admire about Cold Wallet is its ability to keep viewers guessing. The film is anything but predictable, and I had no idea what might happen next and began questioning every character’s motives. The feature also balances various genres seamlessly without disrupting the film’s tone or intended message. One minute, there might be a tension-filled scene, and the next, a humorous moment. Comedy and thriller don’t always mix well, yet somehow, here, the formula works.

two characters in the snow in the film Cold Wallet
Cold Wallet (Blue Finch Film Releasing / SXSW 2024)

Cold Wallet’s setting also stands out, as it is incredibly well-utilized and visually pleasing. Single-location films can be a hard sell if they fail to elevate the material with an engaging plot, resulting in a dull cinematic experience. However, this feature showcases stunning shots of the wooded grounds surrounding the house. Cold Wallet is set in winter, which fits the film’s tone and the characteristics of the scheme that takes place (cold and dismal). The snow-filled ground encompassing the house’s isolated location only adds to the impressive cinematography and immerses you in the viewing experience. In addition, the use of various rooms inside the home, intertwined with the unpredictability of the plot, keeps the audience on their toes and invested in the story.

I do wish Cold Wallet was a bit more creative with some of its concepts and added more conflict into the mix, as some of the events feel underwhelming and rushed through. Still, with the features-consuming setting, impressive genre mashups, and a satisfying conclusion that sticks the landing, Cold Wallet is a noteworthy feature in SXSW’s 2024 festival lineup.

Cold Wallet premiered at SXSW on March 8, 2024. Read our SXSW reviews and our list of films to watch at SXSW 2024!

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