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‘Cold Wallet’ Review: The First Real Crypto Film



A crypto exchange collapses in suspicious circumstances, and the overleveraged holders of its token are left out of pocket. It’s a depressingly familiar story in the world of crypto—and one that writer-director Cutter Hodierne has made the heart of his new film.

“Cold Wallet” opens with everyman Billy (Raúl Castillo) talking up his surefire investment in the ominously named crypto exchange Tulip to all and sundry, splashing the cash on a PS5 for his daughter and pinning his hopes for a new home on its TPC token.

Then it all comes crashing down. The exchange’s CEO dies in mysterious circumstances, Billy’s bags are worthless, and the friends that he shilled Tulip to face financial ruin. But hacker Eva (Melonie Diaz) has a lead: Tulip boss Charles Hegel (Josh Brener of “Silicon Valley”) is alive and well—and holed up in an isolated mansion, just down the road.

Together with Billy’s pacifist martial arts instructor Dom (Tony Cavalero) the unlikely trio of vigilantes set out to kidnap Hegel, seize his hardware wallets, and force him to cough up the missing funds.

But Hegel is no helpless tech geek; instead he’s more of a Hannibal Lecter figure, playing mind games with his captors, sowing seeds of doubt, and pitting them against one another. Billy is left to wrestle with his conscience—does he play Robin Hood and airdrop the funds to the destitute investors, or take the crypto millions for himself and “join the big boys?”

“Cold Wallet” is at its strongest when playing its well-drawn characters against each other. Castillo shines as Billy, embodying the Dunning–Kruger effect as an everyman investor who’s just far enough down the crypto rabbit hole to sound convincing to friends, while not understanding the financial peril he’s placed them in. And Cavalero’s Dom is particularly entertaining as he wrestles with the “karmic imprint” of vigilante violence.

Diaz is given the most thankless task, burdened with delivering wodges of exposition to convey the film’s crypto concepts to the mainstream audience—while her exit from the film feels like something of an afterthought.

Brener’s Charles Hegel is an appropriately slimy villain, though having witnessed the shabby reality of cornered crypto scammers like Sam Bankman-Fried, it’s hard to buy the concept of him as a master manipulator, pulling the protagonists’ strings like so many puppets. Or, indeed, a crossbow-wielding hunter, after a shocking act of violence turns the film on its head for a taut finale that riffs off “The Most Dangerous Game.”

The film’s small budget limits its scope somewhat, too. It stretches credulity a bit that crypto billionaire Hegel is holed up just down the road from our protagonists in Massachusetts, while the action is mostly confined to a single location where the vigilantes butt heads with the crypto scammer.

Crypto credentials

Decrypt readers, of course, will be most interested in the film’s treatment of crypto.

Hitherto, Hollywood has portrayed crypto much like it did computer hacking in the 90s; a tech buzzword sprinkled into scripts to buff their bleeding-edge credentials with no real understanding of how it works (looking at you, “Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning”).

“Cold Wallet” is one of the first films to actually use the mechanics of crypto to drive the plot. A rugpull provides the motivation for the protagonists, while the ins and outs of hardware wallets, airdrops, leverage trading, and seed phrases supply the plot’s twists and turns.

It’s clearly made by people who are deeply immersed in the crypto space, too. Hegel’s “death” and the collapse of the TPX exchange echo the downfalls of QuadrigaCX and FTX, while his mansion is liberally decorated with whale motifs and Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT art. Billy and his fellow investors trade tips on Reddit and watch crypto YouTubers who spout phrases like “diamond hands,” while a key encounter takes place in a parking lot illuminated by the logos of meme stocks GameStop and AMC.

For crypto fans, it’s a refreshing experience to see the space depicted accurately on screen for once—and normies will find it a gripping thriller, even if the crypto lingo flies over their heads.

“Cold Wallet” is also a Web3 enterprise itself; it’s one of three movies financed by Web3 film fund Decentralized Pictures, using a grant from Steven Soderbergh. Founder Roman Coppola believes that “a new Tarantino or a new Kubrick” could eventually emerge from the Film3 world, and on this evidence, there’s every chance that he’s going to be proved right.

Edited by Andrew Hayward

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