SXSW Film Review: Cold Wallet

A well-cast thriller about crypto and its discontents

The very existence of cryptocurrency can stir up violent passions, both for and against. The folks who use it often believe in it with a near-religious fervor, while those who see it as a scam view it as one of the most sinister cons of the current age.

In Cold Wallet, director Cutter Hodierne and screenwriter John Hibey don’t as much pass judgment on the stuff (can you call a digital asset “stuff?”) as show what happens when dreams of striking it rich meet criminal realities.

Raúl Castillo is Billy, a divorced sad-dad who bets it all on crypto to buy a house for himself and the daughter, Stephy (Joanna Sylvie Weinig), he only sees occasionally. His ex-wife Eileen (Zoë Winters, Kerry on Succession, playing a very different character) thinks he’s a loser, which he literally is when a he loses his very small fortune in a scam, not only taking out his dreams but those of his gym pal Dom (the wonderful Tony Cavalero of Righteous Gemstones fame). When it turns out that the founder of a currency called Tulip (Google “tulip mania” for the origin of this joke) might be more alive that recently reported, the two are roped into a revenge plot by Eva (Melonie Diaz), a gal Billy has talked with “for over a year” on Reddit. Eva is determined to get a pound of flesh out of Charles Hegel (an excellent Josh Brener, best known as Big Head in Silicon Valley), so the three get some guns and head up to Hegel’s mansion.

Shot in the Berkshires in the middle of winter, Cold Wallet is, at heart, a revenge and home invasion thriller. (The title refers to the storage device where the codes to the crypto accounts are kept offline.) It’s a fairly straightforward genre exercise that cuts its grim undertones with humor here and there, delivered mostly via Cavalero, who plays a less devout, only slightly smarter version of his character on The Righteous Gemstones. Castillo works as a guy very much at the end of his rope, and Brener feels genuinely menacing as a manipulative, sociopathic, apex predator of Darwinian capitalism.

Cold Wallet

Narrative Spotlight, World Premiere

Wednesday, March 13, 9:15pm & 9:45pm, Violet Crown Cinema

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SXSW Film 2024, Cold Wallet, Cutter Hodierne, Raul Castillo, Tony Cavalero

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