Monday, May 26, 2014

Review: Cold in July

Image courtesy of IFC Films.
Jim Mickle's "Cold in July" is a grim and gripping little low budget thriller that is set in the late 1980s and recalls the work of John Carpenter, right down to its pulsating score.

This is one of those types of films that begins in one place and ends up in a completely different one by the culmination of its story and one of the joys of watching the picture is having no idea where it might go from one minute to the next. There are, however, times when the motivation of the film's lead character could be called into question, but no matter. This is not a movie aiming necessarily for realism.

The film, which is set in Texas in 1989, kicks off with family man Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall, of "Dexter") sort-of accidentally gunning down a burglar in his home. Upon visiting the funeral of the man, whom he feels guilty for killing all the while gaining the appreciation of his fellow neighbors, Dane finds out that the dead man has a recently released convict father, Russel (Sam Shepard, exuding menace), who makes some pretty veiled threats to our hero before actually prowling around his home and taunting his family.

But then, a curious thing happens. During a visit to the police station to speak with detectives, Dane notices the name of the man he thought he'd shot in his home next to a picture of a completely different man on a wanted notification posted to a bulletin board. I won't go into details here, but Dane and Russel - along with the ex-con's wily pal named Jim Bob (a shit kicking Don Johnson) - end up joining together to take on a group of sadistic men, one of whom happens to end up being Russel's actual son, who are involved in a snuff film ring. It may sound like a stretch, but I'm obviously omitting some details here.

Plus, as I said, "Cold in July" doesn't purport to be some sort of true crime story - it's straight up pulp, and a bloody one at that. Mickle's previous films were the western vampire picture "Stake Land," which had its moments but ultimately did not work for me, and "We Are What We Are," the remake of the not particularly convincing Spanish film of the same name. He comes into his own with his latest film, which shows great promise for future endeavors.

"Cold in July" is, if nothing else, a trashy good time - and I mean that in the best of ways. It's a solid example of a genre film done the right way.

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