Cold in July

cold in july.png
UK Release Date 27th June 2014
Director Jim Mickle
Starring Michael C. Hall
Runtime 109 Minutes
Certificate 15
Reviewer Si
Reviewed 30th June 2014

Quality TV stalwart and everyone’s favourite serial killer killer, Michael C. Hall is still circling that tricky post TV show potential career drain. Will he do a Caruso, and pitch up in one too many bad movies to be forever consigned to TV? Or will he fly the roost and actually star in some decent stuff? On current evidence then, he’s definitely heading for the latter…

To date Jim Mickle’s career as a director has mostly revolved around slightly off centre horror movies, none of which I’ve seen and to be honest, none of which I’m rushing off to rent. However, after his latest, I’ll certainly be looking out for his future efforts. Cold in July is a movie of two halves, so much so that’s it’s almost a shame to talk about the second half for fear of either putting people off or spoiling it slightly.

Picking up at a non-specific point in the 1980’s (only really discernible by the technology and clothing on show) we find local everyman Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) awaking to mysterious sounds down the hall. Loading his gun with shaking hands, Dane checks on his young son before sneaking uncertainly into the living room. A burglar freezes when he sees him and a combination of nerves and a clock chiming lead to an incredibly accurate shot that forces the burglar very much off this mortal coil. Completely distraught by the event, life is made far worse for Dane when he discovers that the kid he shot has a father who has just been released on parole.

The trailer for this one actually does a really good job of keeping just the right amount of the movie obscure so I’m going to skirt around the details. There isn’t really a twist as such, at least not in the Shyamalan sense, it’s more that the movie starts out as one thing, then runs shrieking around a corner into a very different film. The first part is a pretty decent family in peril affair as Dane comes to terms with what he has done and desperately tries to convince the reluctant police that he and his family are in danger. For once, and this may be a first in my watching, we actually get to see the family having to clean up once police have finished with the crime scene. It's a relatively small detail but one that sits really well with the movie, this is a film that wants you to really consider the consequences of actions.

Following a none too chance meeting with the father of the deceased at the funeral, Dane beefs up the security on his house, only to come home to find his son’s teddy vandalised in quite a specific way. One home invasion later and life seems to be coming apart at the seams as Sam Shepard’s wronged father Russel seems to have all the cards and looks set to spend the remainder of the film stalking the family.

That the movie survives the shift in direction and tone is an impressive feat. It could so easily have gone wrong but somehow Mickle keeps it together. To be fair, the result is still somewhat uneven, mixing local rock music with a Drive-like synth soundtrack (which is brilliant) and gallows humour with some pretty brutal moments but it never really jars like you expect it would. A good part of this must be credited to the three main players.

Hall is perfectly understated as the family man driven to an accidental extreme act. At the beginning of the movie he is a man far removed from violence, the mere act of loading a gun is an effort. As he progresses though, his Dane slowly and subtly shifts, not to some kind of un-relatable superhero but certainly to a man obsessed with seeing through what has been started. Shepard is of course a legend and Cold in July reminds us that he really should be front and centre far more often than he is. Russel begins as a relative cypher, just a man out for revenge on the person who killed his son but in Shepard’s wonderfully subtle hands, he soon becomes far more than that. And last, but certainly not least, we have another legend - Don Johnson. Still smouldering every bit as much as he always did but now with that sophisticated greying look about him, his brash private eye and pig farmer Jim Bob is a great foil for the two more serious men. Filling in the comedy role without ever over doing it, Johnson is vital to keeping the whole enterprise just the right side of entertainment.

So what we have here is a wonderfully pulpy, slightly grimy, noir-ish thriller that twists and turns without ever sending you spinning off into incredulity. Any issues are relatively small; female characters barely register, this is very much a movie about boys doing horrid boys things and the synth soundtrack probably isn’t going to be to everyone’s tastes but on the whole, I had a thoroughly good time with Cold in July. The tension is genuinely fraught (helped by that soundtrack from Jeff Grace) and the levity brought by Johnson is much appreciated. Dark, brooding and entertaining, this marks Mickle as one to watch and Hall as a decent bet to escape his TV roots. Oh, and it would be remiss not to mention Hall’s superb moustache / mullet combo. Both worn without a hint of irony. Awesome. 

Check out the trailer here.

comments powered by Disqus