Cold In July


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Michael C Hall in Cold In July
"The plot may thicken but it never becomes stewed." | Photo: Ryan Samul

When family man Richard Dane (Michael C Hall, 60 per cent mullet and moustache) wakes in the night to the sound of an intruder and goes, jitteringly, to find out who is in the house, you think we're in home intruder territory. When seconds later he has shot his intruder dead, by mistake rather than through malice, the game has changed and, surely, we're going to be treated to a tale of psychological remorse?

And so it goes with the latest from Jim Mickle (co-written by his regular collaborator Nick Damici and based on the novel by Joe R Landsdale) just when you think you've got the lay of the land, Cold In July shifts another gear and moves you into unknown territory. Next up is a possible revenge thriller, heralded by the intruder's father (Sam Shepard), an ex-con the snap of whose Zippo ligher sounds like the cocking of a gun.

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This is pulp territory but it comes with substance as Richard finds himself increasingly drawn in to a tale of corruption and murder that runs well beyond the bloodstain on his living room wall. Mickle and Damici have always been economical with characters. Despite its low budget, the multitude of residents in their debut Mulberry Street were memorable and when some of their number died, we cared. Richard initially seems more overwrought than he ought to be, given that the noise he might have heard could be nothing, but by amping the tension early on, the tone is set, so that when black comedy is invoked later, it doesn't detract from the emotional anxiety that has been created.

The arrival of Don Johnson's part-detective part-pig farmer Jim Bob, part way through, gooses the action, inviting us to enjoy the film's slyly comic moments, even as the horror - wisely left to the imagination - mounts.

The film screams the Eighties, its blues and reds colliding, from the flick of a cop car light to the industrial crimson of a diner booth, and literally, when the crazy ego-extension motor that Jim Bob rocks up in smashes into a blue car. The presence of Miami Vice veteran Johnson - having a ball as the brash counterpoint to Shepard's more subtle brand of menace - only serving to cement the period. Mickle and Damici go beyond the styling to deliver narratively - the plot may thicken but it never becomes stewed.

Reviewed on: 14 May 2014
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After killing a home intruder, a small town Texas man's life unravels into a dark underworld of corruption and violence.
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Anne-Katrin Titze ****

Director: Jim Mickle

Writer: Nick Damici, Jim Mickle, based on the novel by Joe R Lansdale

Starring: Michael C Hall, Don Johnson, Sam Shepard, Vinessa Shaw, Nick Damici, Wyatt Russell

Year: 2014

Runtime: 109 minutes

Country: US, France

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