Cold in July (2014)
When a protective father meets a murderous ex-con, both need to deviate from the path they are on as they soon find themselves entangled in a downwards spiral of lies and violence while having to confront their own inner psyche.
Genre : Thriller/Crime
Country : USA/France
Michael C. Hall : Richard Dane
Sam Shepard : Russel
Don Johnson : Jim Bob
Director : Jim Mickle
“I need a drink and I haven’t even had my coffee yet.”
Imagine. Your wife wakes you up in the middle of the night because she heard a suspicious noise. You get up and with trembling knees and a giant easter egg in your pants, you move along with a mega-gun in your shaking fist. And there’s actually a burglar waving a flashlight in the middle of your living room. And in that very tense moment the antique grandmother-clock chimes. You scare and “BANG” the revolver goes off. The burglar will never have the urge again to go and buy cigarettes at the local supermarket. In other words, the brains he possessed aren’t anymore where they should be. They have spread all over your living room. Obviously, this is seen as self-defense, and while the funeral is held, you are secretly watching while the victim is buried. Suddenly a dead-calm stranger stands next to you. He appears to be the father (and also ex-con) of the now brainless kid. In plain wording he lets you know he’s not exactly happy with the death of his son. And before you know it, you are in a threatening situation in which your son is the main target. The following events however ensure that you end up in a bizarre situation and you’re drawn into a death ride that defies all imagination.
And that’s what happens to Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) in this rather exciting and surprising movie. You can expect an exciting start compared to “Cape Fear“. And when you’ve seen the end, you really believe that Jim Mickle got lessons from Quentin Tarantino. It’s a gray, depressive and intense thriller complete with drizzling rain and bad neighborhoods with abandoned houses and dilapidated American Cadillacs. A story that is sometimes brutal and sometimes completely absurd. At times I doubted whether it was supposed to be a gritty,terrible life sketch. Or a cynical absurd comedy. A wonderful low budget film that begins with revenge, but slowly sheds a light on something disturbing. Nothing seems to be what it is and there’s always another twist in this ominous story.
“Cold in July” is a morbid movie with a real threatening mood, violence of excessive proportions and a sickening event that causes the final outburst of extreme aggression. It’s an adaptation of the eponymous book written by Joe Lansdale, the famed horror/thriller author. Michael C. “Dexter” Hall plays the lead role as Richard, a friendly, timid family man who earns his living as a frame maker. Because of my lack of interest in TV series, I had no idea that Hall was reasonably known as “Dexter“. My mother in law was astonished that I didn’t know him. He doesn’t have the look of a seasoned rugged macho. But that was already evident after the confrontation with the burglar. But Hall knows how to interpret the transformation into a ruthless avenger in an unprecedented way.
Sam Shepard plays the part of Russel, the revenge seeking father. It seems as if he played in every movie I’ve seen recently (“Out of the furnace“, “Mud“, “Killing them Softly“, “Safe House“) and he’s ideally suited for this role. The gray, weathered face,that raw raspy voice and his tough stance. It fits perfectly with the person Russel. And yet he shows in the end that there’s still a bit of humanity inside him.
But for me the appearance of Don Johnson was a real surprise. He’s the one who truly excels in this movie. When I see Johnson, I see Crockett from Miami Vice. I didn’t see him acting anymore until “Django Unchained“. But when he drove up in his bright red convertible with the swaying Hawaiian girl on the dashboard and that juicy Texas accent, I was hooked. A brilliant rendition of a pig farmer aka private detective, who can defend himself and gives his full support to Russel.
Visually it’s very convincing at times. The dialogue-free fragments are sometimes perfectly portrayed: scrubbing the wall in the beginning or the moments when they sit on the porch at Don Johnson’s place. “Cold in July” is a mixture of different genres. It tries to surprise you again and again . The fact that it was a bit unbelievable how Richard Dane evolves from a typical wimp into a bloodthirsty ruthless basher is a slight detail. This was a fantastic experience and a must see for all fans of a rich suspenseful thriller.