Starring: Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, Don Johnson, Wyatt Russell, Vinessa Shaw, Nick Damici
Directed by: Jim Mickle
Synopsis: 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.
Cold in July was a film that, when I first heard about it, got me quite excited. It sounded like a good old ‘Americana’ yarn. Set in the eighties in Texas, with an intriguing storyline. So I’m sad to say that despite all that promise, it failed to deliver.
It felt like two films stitched together, the first half being a pretty decent Cape Fear style thriller, and the second underwhelming half just a bog standard revenge tale with a cliched ‘shoot-out in a house’ ending.
The film is directed by Jim Mickle who we heard from last with “We Are What We Are” a horror movie remake which, although it had faults, was a movie that I enjoyed. Therefore I had high hopes for Cold in July. The first hour didn’t give me any reason to change my mind on that front. It was tense, didn’t give much away and set the scene really well for there to be some real twists and turns in the third act. Except nothing really materialized from it.
Michael C. Hall of ‘Dexter’ fame plays a mulleted every man who is disturbed in the middle of the night by a home invasion. More out of a nervous trigger finger than malice or intent he shoots the burglar in the head and kills him. The police come round and speak to Hall and his family, making sure they know it wasn’t his fault. Unfortunately the father of the deceased doesn’t see it that way, and starts making the families life a living hell, until Hall makes a startling discovery.
You just read that and thought, hey, that sounds pretty damned good, right? So did I. Unfortunately, the point at which Michael C. Hall makes his startling discovery is where the film heads for tedium rather than intrigue. It took the wrong fork on the road. To SPOIL it slightly, Hall’s discovery is actually that the guy he was told he killed is actually someone different to who the police told him. Now, if that was me I would want to build a suspenseful story about why they lied. Instead, the film makers just decide to turn it into a slightly ordinary revenge thriller which, whilst not bad, was routine to the extreme.
The film is set in the eighties, and the period features; clothes, hair, VHS (!), cars etc are spot on. Michael C. Hall does a good job of being a scared citizen, but believability is lost when he, as is the want of Hollywood, becomes all gung-ho in the final third. Sam Shepard is OK but doesn’t say much and Don Johnson walks around looking all noughties Bob Dylan. In fact, the tone of the film shifts incredibly when Johnson turns up. It goes from serious and tense to almost comic at times. I don’t think that shift sat well overall.
I think Cold in July missed a great opportunity to be a really solid thriller by taking it’s eye off the ball in the second half of the movie.