“Cold In July,” from IFC Films and Bullet Pictures, brings to the screen an edge of the seat, fast moving, shocking thrill ride layered with scandalous small town corruption that resonates long after the end credits roll.
Co-written and directed by Jim Mickle, “Cold In July” stars Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, Don Johnson and co-stars Vinessa Shaw, Brogan Hall and Nick Damici, as Sheriff Ray Price, who also co-wrote the screenplay. “Cold in July” was adapted for the screen from the novel written by Joe R. Lansdale.
“Cold In July,” begins fast, and continues at high-speed throughout as, Richard Dane, played with exception by Michael C. Hall, a young father and husband, living a quiet life as a picture framer in a small Texas town, wakes to hear an intruder, protecting his wife and son, he makes it to the living room to see an unknown assailant in his home.
Watching him walk through the darkened hallway of his home, each step increases the suspense, as his worst nightmare is confirmed. Finger on the trigger, he slips, and in a nanosecond his entire life changes as he kills the intruder.
Leaving one to think well, this really ends the film, cut and dry, and to cover that assumption the director, doesn’t skip over the after effects of an in home shooting as the family cleans the blood, brain matter, and event from their home
The perpetrator, as Richard is told by Sheriff Price, is an FBI Most Wanted career criminal, no real family ties. A Christian, Richard decides to attend the funeral watching from a distance. The pine box is lowered into an unmarked grave.
This is where the plot begins to take on a noir feel, watching what he believes is the end to this terrifying nightmare, Richard is startled by a stranger who pops up beside the open window of his car.
The stranger introduces himself as Russel, embodied by Sam Shepard, the perpetrators father, part psychopath, and a convicted murderer recently released from prison.
Showing up to avenge the death of his son, Sheperd ushers in the second act of this highly suspenseful cat and mouse murder mystery. Sheperd, genuinely frightening, is the catalyst for a web of deception which ushers in the final act.
We met Jim Bob played by Don Johnson, before we ever see his face. A bright red caddy, cowboy boots, steer horns hood ornament, and a license plate “RED BTCH,” we know we’re meeting a over the top bad ass. And Johnson does not disappoint. He personifies his, hard to believe, detective/pig farmer character.
There are so many interesting aspect to “Cold in July,” one of them which is the switch of the Sheriff. When he needs Richard, “The Framer” to believe him he is welcoming and accommodating and when he wants to stop him from pursuing any additional information he becomes antagonistic, and combative so to stop any further attempts to question him, a tactic, when presented on screen is recognizable as often used and common.
As Mickle ensures that no detail is overlooked, the first ten minutes of the film, leading up to the shooting are extremely apprehensive, with each step, on the creaky floorboard, it is easy to see yourself in the same situation.
There are scenes which lend to conclusions that I have never been seen, or at least I have never seen the type of violence suggested. It resonated and stunned.
Johnson and Sheperd plays lifelong buddies, Jim Bob and Russel, a bond cemented and forged in war, which remained solid, no matter the time, distance, hardships, poor choices and bad decisions, the bond remained which is rare and played well.
“Cold in July” through each scene ups the ante. The minute you think the plot twists and turns have been exhausted a new element or layer is uncovered and your attention is draw right back, poised with apprehension.
Mickle does more than present a film, the reality is that “Cold in July” is highly underrated and yes in the tent pole season of high powered VFX and galaxy teams battling sky high gorillas it would be a tough sell against stiff competition and still “Cold in July” is a sleeper hit.
It is made for the audience. It is scary, with serious heightened suspense; it has the benchmarks of solid thriller film-making although there are some graphic content, the final scenes, a climatic end to a suspenseful film, leads to a shoot out with blood, guts and well deserved gore.
“Cold In July,” opens everywhere May 23, 2014. “Cold in July” is also available on VOD. See this film!