Cold in July
USA Limited Theatrical Release: 23 May 2014Read More
Runtime: 1 hr 49 min (109 min)
Genres: Drama | Thriller
Storyline: In 1980s East Texas, two fathers pitted against each other in revenge must band together to uncover a darker truth.
*Disclaimer: author has not read the novelOriginally a novel written by Joe R. Lansdale, Cold in July begins with a burglary at the Danes’ residence in 1980s Texas. After shooting the intruder Freddy Russell dead, Richard Dane feels so uncomfortable with the fact that he has killed a person that he goes to watch Russell’s burial only to encounter Freddy’s father, Ben. Having the set on getting revenge, Ben aggressively antagonizes Dane’s family, particularly threatening Dane’s son. When Dane discovers that the man he shot was not in fact Freddy Russell, he and Ben go on a manhunt to find Freddy and figure out what the police is hiding. Joined by Ben’s old friend, Jim Bob, the three are thrown into one thrilling scenario after another.
After having read several reviews of the novel, director Jim Mickle’s film adaptation of Cold in July seems to follow the novel’s quick plot changes. Mickle says in a press release that what stuck out for him about Cold in July was the way it did not fit the mold, it did not declare “what kind of movie… [it was] going to be in the first 10 minutes,” unlike many other stories. This is refreshing and the twists and turns in the plot definitely do not stick to any molds created; however, the flow of each situation lacked room to develop. It was as if you were listening to a five-year-old talk about his/her first day of school: this happened, then this happened, and then Richard got shot in the ear! (Hopefully that last part was never said by your imaginary kindergartener.)
It was hard to imagine, for instance, when Dane (played by Michael C. Hall), showed Ben (Sam Shepard) the burglar’s dead body to prove it was not Freddy, that their relationship would all of a sudden ignore the fact that just the day before, Ben had hid in Dane’s crawl space with the intention to hurt Dane’s son. If it were not for all the actors’ subtle and toned down performances, these characters would not be very believable. Each actor, even Don Johnson’s portrayal of “RED BTCH” Jim Bob, was well done, particularly Johnson’s for his could have definitely become cartoonish. If anyone was worried that Hall’s performance of Dane would just be Dexter with a mini mullet, there is no need to be. Hall’s acting is unique to the character and even when Dane wiped the blood from the wall, traces of Dexter were nowhere to be found.
Aside from the acting, there were other factors that redeemed the film. The hard synthesizer/electronic music in the film coinciding with the scenes preparing for violence is reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino’s style of incorporating more electronic, pumping music to create an alternative adrenaline tension to thriller films. The quick punches of humor throughout the film, though made it a bit more difficult to take the movie seriously, were in themselves funny and comic relief. Mickle’s meticulous use of objects within the camera’s edges to frame the subjects like when Dane’s car window acted like a border of a photo to introduce the subject, Ben, is distinct and continuous throughout.
If anything, Cold in July is commendable for its unconventional story telling.
Sam Shepard (Russel), Michael C. Hall (Richard Dane), and Don Johnson (Jim Bob) in Jim Mickle’s COLD IN JULY.
Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films release.